Part of major road in Sweden collapses in landslide

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Part of the E6 main road near Munkedal in Bohuslän in the west of Sweden has collapsed in a landslide. The first report was received by emergency services at 19.17 CET. 26 people were involved in the incident, when the road collapsed under them in a landslide. About 500 metres of the road slid down a slope into a small stream alongside, leaving a crater 200 metres wide and two to three metres deep. Both sides of the road (which in this area is single carriageway) have collapsed and the road has now been closed by the emergency services between Saltkällan and Torp.

Police spokesperson Thomas Fuxborg said to SVT that "it is a very large accident". So far no fatalities have been reported, and SVT news programme Aktuellt reports that all the people involved in the accident have been rescued and have only suffered minor injuries (video of news broadcast; video showing the scene of the accident). On the morning of 21 December SVT reported that all 26 people involved in the incident had been rescued. Though none of them had major injuries 13 people were taken to hospital, of which all but one had been discharged by the morning of 21 December. The injuries consisted of "some broken arms and legs and back pains, and many shocked of course," according to Lars-Göran Eskilsson, deputy head of rescue services in Uddevalla.

The site of the landslide is the most recently opened section of the E6, which has been undergoing rebuilding work. The cause of the landslide is not known, but there is speculation that the unusually heavy rain that has recently hit the area could have undermined the road. Geologists have warned that there may be further landslides, so the safety cordons are being moved back. "Work is currently underway to move the cordons back to secure the area," said Leif Larsson, head of rescue services in Uddevalla, on the night of 20 December. Two properties nearby have been evacuated because of the risk for further landslides.

According to Göteborgs-Posten, the Bohusbanan railway line (which runs parallel with the E6 road) has also been affected. The landslide reportedly cut an electricity line leaving the railway without power. A passenger train on its way from Munkedal was stopped only 600-700 metres from the scene of the landslide. SVT reports that 300 metres of the railway embankment has collapsed.

The E6 is the main road between Oslo, the capital city of Norway, and Gothenburg, so the landslide is expected to cause major disruption to traffic. The 15,000 vehicles that pass the collapsed section of road every day will be rerouted on minor roads via Dals-Ed. Vehicles coming from the south will have to leave the E6 before the Uddevalla bridge and follow roads 174, 166 and 164 before returning to the motorway at Skee. "There will be very big diversions, about 50-60 kilometres. We will have long queues because it involves many vehicles and much smaller roads," said Tomas Andersson, crisis manager at the Swedish National Road Administration. More information is available on the Swedish National Road Administration website.