Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Hopes fade for missing in Norway

A collapsed building in Alesund, a town in western Norway, on Wednesday morning
Rescuers have been prevented from entering the building

Hopes are fading for five people who are missing after a block of flats collapsed in the western Norwegian coastal town of Alesund.

It now seems clear a rockslide hit the back of the building early Wednesday, demolishing its lower floors.

Fifteen residents were brought out of the modern six-storey block, with two suffering moderate injuries.

Rescue teams and sniffer dogs are at the scene, but their efforts are being hampered by fire.

There has also been a second rockslide.

"The chances of finding survivors are fading but we are hanging on to the slim hope that somebody may be in a room at the back of the building," Kjell Kvernseth, a police official in charge of the rescue operation, told news agency AFP.

'Risk of explosion'

Firefighters are continuing to tackle a blaze in the building, started when a propane gas tank caught fire.

There were enormous rocks - not just rocks - half the hill had slid down into the bottom floors
Lars Aage Eldoey

Rescue teams from around the region have been called to the town, 350km (220 miles) north-west of the capital Oslo, but are unable to get into the building at present.

"The fire, the risk of explosion from the gas tank, possible rockslides and the risk that the entire building could collapse mean we are not able to enter the building at the moment," said another police official, Magne Tjoennoey.

Neighbours said they were woken at about 0330 (0230 GMT) by a loud noise and trembling.

Building 'leapt'

"We first thought it was an earthquake," said Lars Aage Eldoey, who managed to escape with his wife from the top floor.


When he got out on the balcony he realised what had happened, he said.

"There were enormous rocks - not just rocks - half the hill had slid down into the bottom floors," he told state broadcaster NRK.

Residents described how the building seemed to leap forward and then collapse.

Geologists are at the scene to assess the risk of further rockslides.

TV images showed twisted balconies hanging from the mangled wreckage of the building, as smoke billowed from inside.

Country profile: Norway
04 Dec 07 |  Country profiles

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