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Jonas Ekblom

Swedish journalist with breaking newsroom experience and prize-awarded photography. Currently reporter at Reuters in Brussels, previously Washington D.C.

Recepient of the 2019 Overseas Press Club Scholar Award and Reuters Fellow. Top-of-class MS (Honors) graduate from Columbia Journalism School.

Previously at Swedish Public Radio (Sveriges Radio) and other outlets.

Catastrophic spring flood causes major damage, Swedish national emergency response agency will provide support

Catastrophic spring flood causes major damage, Swedish national emergency response agency will provide support

Originally published on 22 April 2018 in Swedish as “Vårfloden ställer till stora problem – MSB sätter in extra resurser mot översvämningar”

This year’s spring floods have proven catastrophic for the entire region of Hälsingland and the weekend saw houses under water, closed [roads?] thoroughfares and more than two feet of water in the Glysisvallen sports complex in downtown Hudiksvall. This triggered the Swedish meteorological agency to put out class 2 and 3 warnings, their highest, for extreme water levels in the region.

On Sunday afternoon, the administrative board of the Gävleborg region held a major meeting with every municipal board and rescue service organization in the region. In the meeting, the administrative board requested extra resources from the Swedish national emergency response agency, MSB.

While the administrative board could not be reach for comment, we have learned that MSB will assist with several trucks loaded with water pumps and kilometers of water barriers to prevent more damage.

Mats Åberg, the head of rescue services in northern Hälsingland, was present at the meeting. While he didn’t see a direct need for extra resources in his area, Åberg said he is ready to call them in.

He also recommended that citizens to go to their municipality’s website, which offers guidance on flood prevention in their homes. If you are a homeowner, the municipality recommends buying a water pump if your house is close to a lake or a river.

A part of the Glysisvallen sports complex, where water was flooding in over the weeekend.

A part of the Glysisvallen sports complex, where water was flooding in over the weeekend.

The Horn River, which is diverted in an underground tunnel under the Glysisvallen sports complex in Hudiksvall, reached its highest levels Saturday night, said Nikas Ekroos, weekend shift leader at northern Hälsingland rescue services.

Major damage at Glysisvallen was prevented by walls that the rescue services built earlier in the week. Gert Bladin is manager at the sports complex and was calm about the situation. “The only thing we can to prop up the sand walls we’ve built and wait for the snow to melt away,” he said.

The Horn River also flooded a large road close to European Highway 4 north of Hudiksvall, which was closed during parts of the weekend. Several smaller roads have been partly or completely washed away.

“We were prepared that the spring flood was going to cause problems this weekend,” said Leif Forslund, engineer at the municipal department of transportation in Hudiksvall. He said that it will be hard to assess any damage until the water is gone. Asked about any damage to major thoroughfares, Forslund wasn’t worried.

“I don’t think the damage to the larger roads are too dramatic,” he said.

A municipal department of transportation worker inspects the damage to a regional road west of Hudiksvall where half the road had washed away.

A municipal department of transportation worker inspects the damage to a regional road west of Hudiksvall where half the road had washed away.

The situation is serious, but could have been even worse had sea levels been normal: They currently stand 20 centimeters (8 inches) lower than normal.

“The low sea levels saved us – the melt water had somewhere to go,” Forslund said.

Across the region, homeowners have seen their property flooded and northern Hälsingland rescue services were called out several times over the weekend to pump out water from buildings.

“We can only aid with an immediate emergency – the major responsibility lies with the homeowner,” Ekroos said.

Håkan Forslin in Bergsjö heeded rescue services’ advice. He bought two water pumps that have been running day and night after his house was flooded.

“We had prepared ourselves with four-feet walls – because we saw what was happening – but the water broke through,” Forslin said.

Håkan Forslin had prepared for the spring flood by building four-feet walls . It did not prove enough.

Håkan Forslin had prepared for the spring flood by building four-feet walls . It did not prove enough.

His back yard, facing a local creek, was littered with hoses to pump water and plastic tarps and sandbags to build walls. A nearby bridge over the creek was replaced three years ago and the new one lets more water pass through.

“If we still had the old bridge in place… I wouldn’t know what would have happened. I’ve never seen this much water here in my life,” Forslin said.

Businesses have also been hit hard. The factory floor of Holma-Helsingland AB, a linen mill that has produced textile outside Hudiksvall for 120 years, was flooded. Its buildings are right next to the local lake.

“Last time it was this bad was 18 years ago,” said its CEO, Margareta Larsson.

However, this past weekend the situation was so bad that the factory had to close down production. A tired Larsson explained there is very little the company can do.

“We can’t pump the water anywhere, since our factory is now at the same level as the lake. The only thing we can do is wait it out,” Larsson said.

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