At least 21 unaccounted for after Norway landslide in residential area

A landslide in a residential area near the Norwegian capital Wednesday injured at least 10 people, left 21 unaccounted for and destroyed several homes, authorities said.

Situation 'so unstable' rescue efforts can only take place from helicopters, PM says

A landslide struck a residential area near Oslo on Wednesday. (Fredrik Hagen/NTB via The Associated Press)

A landslide tore through a residential area near the Norwegian capital Wednesday, injuring at least 10 people, leaving 21 unaccounted for and destroying several homes, authorities said. Some 700 people were evacuated from the area amid fears of further landslides.

The landslide occurred in a residential area in the municipality of Gjerdrum, 30 kilometres north of the capital Oslo. 

It cut across a road through Ask village, leaving a deep ravine that cars could not pass. Video footage showed dramatic scenes, including one house falling into the ravine. Photos showed at least eight homes destroyed.

Police spokesperson Roger Pettersen told Norwegian media there were no reports of missing people, but officials could not rule out the possibility of people in collapsed buildings. He said 21 people registered to live in the area are unaccounted for.

"The 21 people may have evacuated themselves but may also still be in the landslide area," Pettersen told news agency NTB.

A car is stopped at the edge of a cliff after a landslide occurred in a residential area in Norway. (Fredrik Hagen/NTB/The Associated Press)

5,000 residents

One of the injured was seriously hurt, while nine had lighter injuries. Weather at the time was reported to be challenging, with snow and full winter conditions.

Ask is home to 5,000 people.

Helicopters continued to hover over the area as night fell, at times lowering emergency responders toward the debris of collapsed houses. Police said rescue operations would continue through Wednesday night into Thursday.

A person is lowered from a rescue helicopter near the site where a big landslide hit a residential area in the village of Ask, north of Oslo. (Jil Yngland/NTB via The Associated Press)

"It is a catastrophe," Prime Minister Erna Solberg told reporters after visiting the site.

"There could be people trapped … but at the same time we can't be sure because it is the New Year's holiday, which means people could be elsewhere," she said, warning that rescue operations could take a long time.

"This could take days."

Solberg said that the situation is still "so unstable" that it was impossible to do any rescue effort other than from helicopters.

Masses of earth are continuing to move in what has been one of the largest clay slides in recent Norwegian history, Torild Hofshagen, regional head of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, told a news conference.

Southern Norway has seen large amounts of precipitation in recent days, which may have caused the clay soil prevalent in the area to shift, NRK said.

The landslide cut across a road through Ask, a small community in southeastern Norway. (Norwegian Rescue Service/NTB/Reuters)

With files from Reuters