Norwegian police abandon rescue efforts for four skiers presumed dead in avalanche

Tourists' location under snow pinpointed by rescuers but days too late

Tim Wyatt
Friday 04 January 2019 18:02
A military helicopter and rescue workers search for the skiers in Tamokdalen, northern Norway
A military helicopter and rescue workers search for the skiers in Tamokdalen, northern Norway

Four skiers hit by an avalanche in Norway are presumed dead after authorities concluded they had been under the snow too long to survive.

Three men from Finland and a woman from Sweden were reported missing by a friend on Wednesday afternoon in Tamokdalen in northern Norway, 60 miles south of Tromso.

Rescue teams launched several expeditions to the area where the skiers were last seen but were not able to find where they had been carried by the avalanche until it was too late.

Police spokesman Morten Pettersen said they “no longer have any hopes of finding anyone alive”.

The avalanche which is thought to have swept away the group was 300m wide. Heavy snowfall and low visibility since it poured down the mountains had hampered rescuers’ efforts.

On Thursday, rescuers discovered ski tracks which went into the avalanche but did not come out.

Then, a day later, a helicopter flying overhead picked up the signals from two transceiver beacons used by skiers to give their positions when caught in an avalanche.

But the Tromso police chief, Astrid Elisabeth Nilsen, told a press conference on Friday the three Finns and Swede would have died long before their location was discovered.

“This confirms our assumption that the missing have been caught in the avalanche,” she told reporters.

“It has now been 38 hours since the avalanche took place. Now that we have confirmed their positions, we believe it is no longer probable that any of the four have survived.”

Mads Gilbert, a doctor from the University Hospital of North Norway, said it was “impossible to survive nearly two days buried in snow”.

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“We are absolutely convinced that there is no medical basis to continue to search for [the skiers] as if they were still alive.”

Those who survive avalanches are pulled from the snow in “minutes, not hours”, he added.

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