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'It is clear that this must be handled with dignity'

"We have had a meeting with the residents about demolition process," Frank Jakobsen, says. FOTO: Eirik Palm

'It is clear that this must be handled with dignity'

LNS Spitsbergen has started demolishing the pointed-roof houses crushed by the landslide in December. The debris will be sent to the mainland in March.

The machinery and carpenters are in place, and work to remove the pointed-roof houses is underway. LNSS was hired to do the demolition and the company expects to spend two days on each house.

Tens of millions

Gjensidige Forsikring is the insurer. Arne Voll, the company's chief spokesperson, said he isn't speculating what the total damages will be, but the Longyearbyen Community Council's Administration Committee recent voted to buy five apartments for a total of 15 million kroner. In addition to the homes, there's also the loss of furnishings and personal property. Furthermore, natural preservation and building restrictions under the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act makes it difficult to calculation claims based on average properties on the mainland.

"So far we have chosen not to focus on any specific amount," Voll said. "But there is major damage and loss, that is clear."

"You have buildings that are collapsed and perhaps in danger of caving in further, so it's about getting the area secured and getting these demolished as soon as possible," he said.

Gjensidige is insuring the "lion's share" of the homes.

The wood is dried and the houses removed using demolition grapples, and the debris will be temporarily stored at Hotellneset. Appliances, electrical devices and other items will be sorted out, while the rest will be shipped unsorted to the mainland, where the final sorting will take place.

LNSS was waiting at the beginning of the week for approval from The Governor of Svalbard's environmental department to store the debris at Hotellneset. The company was authorized to begin work Tuesday.

"We have had a meeting with the residents about demolition process," said LNSS Managing Director Frank Jakobsen. "Some have needed to get into certain places."

Construction zone

Eleven homes were hit and two people killed by the avalanche on Sukkertoppen the morning of Dec. 19. Several of the homes were smashed into pieces and it's still uncertain what's contained in the wreckage. LNSS is working to determine where there may be hazardous waste such as fuel, as well as items such as vehicles.

"All of the residents we talked to wanted to be contacted prior to demolition," said Jakobsen, who lived in one of the homes for many years. "It is clear that this must be handled with dignity."

There have also been adverse reactions from residents on Facebook and elsewhere about the area becoming something of a tourist attraction.

The area is considered to be a construction site while the demolition is in progress, meaning safety equipment is required for entry. That also means people need to obtain permission from LNSS.

Translated by Mark Sabbatini


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