King Harald, Queen Sonja and Crown Prince Haakon have marked the beginning of the new Norwegian royal year in a sad way. The three royals visited the people of Gjerdrum after the catastrophic quick clay landslide that started on December 30th 2020. So far, seven people have been confirmed dead, while three people are still missing. Another ten people are injured and still more than 1.000 are evacuated in the fear that the landslide may continue.
The royal couple and Crown Prince Haakon travelled to the affected area on January 3rd 20221 and met evacuees and relatives, as well as representatives of municipalities and emergency services who have worked continuously since the landslide in parts of the city of Ask in Gjerdrum. The royal couple praised emergency services and volunteers.
To the press after the visit His Majesty the King said: “We have had a moving day behind us. I have trouble finding things to say, because this is absolutely awful.”
Her Majesty Queen Sonja said the following after the visit: “We have gained a very good insight into the work that has been done by the emergency services. It is very impressive. Talented people and good unity. It made a huge impression. This small municipality of 7000 has a warmth of heart that we have experienced so strongly today.”
The royals arrived at Gjerdrum culture house just before 11.00. Here they were met by mayor Anders Østensen, police chief Ida Melbo Øystese and task force leader Anders Solberg Bru in the eastern police district. The task leader informed them about the situation in the landslide area, and about the rescue operation that is still ongoing. Representatives of the health service, the Fire and Rescue Service and the Armed Forces then briefed the royals on their work. Then the royals went to the local church to pray and light candles. King Harald and Queen Sonja then went to Olavsgaard hotel to meet survivors who have been evacuated. Crown Prince Haakon went to the Clarion hotel to meet relatives of those whose relatives have been confirmed dead.
The landslide at Ask in Gjerdrum is among the largest quick clay landslides that have hit Norway in history. Not since the Verdal landslide in 1893 has there been a quick clay landslide of this dimension in Norway. In Gjerdrum, a total of 31 housing units distributed over a minimum of nine buildings have been taken by the avalanche. In addition, there is other infrastructure such as garage buildings that has been hit. Swedish rescue workers have contributed to the rescue operation, but have now returned to Sweden.
This was King Harald’s first public appearance after his major heart operation and long period of illness in 2020. There is no doubt that the King is in very good shape, even though he has started using a cane. Several Norwegian newspapers pointed out that they thought the King looked more healthy than he had done in several years.