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Historical archive

The Report from the Ålesund Committee

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development

Summary

The tragic accident at Fjelltun in Ålesund which cost the lives of five people, and endangered the lives of many more, came as a great shock to us all. It was inconceivable that anything like this could happen in the middle of a town and in a new apartment block.

The tragic accident at Fjelltun in Ålesund which cost the lives of five people, and endangered the lives of many more, came as a great shock to us all. It was inconceivable that anything like this could happen in the middle of a town and in a new apartment block.

The committee of enquiry concludes that the accident was handled well, and that no further lives could have been saved.

The way Ålesund municipality took care of those variously affected by the accident is exemplary. The committee notes in particular the good cooperation and good coordination achieved with other emergency services and voluntary organisations.

Good coordination characterised the entire operation and, in the view of the committee, is the most important reason why the handling of the crisis is viewed as commendable. The coordination built on good, well-directed police leadership of the operation along with local actors’ will and initiative to bring in outside experts.

The media did a good job in keeping the world at large informed and, with few exceptions, stayed within their own ethical bounds.

A 6,400 litre gas tank was buried below ground at No. 31 Fjelltunvegen. Although the gas tank was in no way the cause of the accident, it was nonetheless the direct reason for the extensive evacuation that was carried out. The committee considers that the gas tank issue was handled in a professional manner, but nonetheless calls for measures that can reduce risk and can strengthen the emergency services’ competence in dealing with such situations.

A further conclusion of the committee is that the rockslide was a direct result of changes to the terrain prior to construction of the apartment block. The slope at No. 31 Fjelltunvegen was basically stable. Construction-site blasting affected stability which in turn led to the rockslide.

The committee's remit has not been to decide whether the accident could have been avoided. However, a thorough review of the building project and site preparation and blasting, together with a review of relevant rules and regulations, has enabled the committee to assess measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of similar events in the future.

To this end the committee makes the following main recommendations:

The Planning and Building Act must require geological surveys to be carried out when developing locations which may become unsafe as a result of interventions. Such surveys must be carried out as part of the building project before construction work starts and, if necessary, during the project and after completion.

The basis for relevant risk-and-vulnerability analyses under the Planning and Building Act must be improved. Information on areas where interventions in connection with construction activity may entail new or increased risk of rockslide must be made available.

The committee endorses the Government proposal to enact a municipal preparedness obligation, including an obligation to carry out cross-sectoral risk and vulnerability analyses. Municipalities must be put in a position to meet the requirements.

The central government sectoral authority must be given a right of objection in land use planning under the Planning and Building Act based on an assessment of the danger of rockslide or landslide.

Existing settlements threatened by unstable cuttings after terrain interventions must be identified. Risk must be brought to light and remedied.

Gas installations should be regulated through the planning and building legislation. A legal requirement must be introduced making such installations subject to independent oversight and inspection.

The committee makes the following additional recommendations:

Safety measures carried out to provide protection against slides must of a quality and durability that meet long-term requirements.

Steps must be taken to ensure that the requisite specialist geological expertise is available to developers and public authorities.

Authorities responsible for emergency preparedness and municipalities must have access to resources with the requisite competence in dealing with demanding accidents.

The Fire Service’s competence in dealing with accidents involving flammable gases should be strengthened.

Gas tanks in areas where an accident may have serious consequences for life and health should be buried below ground or be similarly protected against external influences.

The committee’s recommendations are elaborated on in chapter 21.


 

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