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Greenland villagers moved to higher ground as vast iceberg threatens flooding

There are fears it could flip or that sections could break off.

Greenland Iceberg This shot of the iceberg looming over Innarsuit was taken last Thursday. Source: Karl Petersen

LOW-LYING AREAS OF a village in northwestern Greenland remain evacuated today as villagers and local authorities monitor a vast iceberg for signs it could move closer or break apart, threatening the remote settlement.

Kenneth Elkjaer, a journalist with Greenland public broadcaster KNR, said today the iceberg is about 500 – 600 metres offshore and “everybody is waiting to see what happens to the weather”.

On Friday, 33 of Innaarsuit’s 169 residents had to move to higher ground due to concerns the iceberg could flip or chunks of it could break off, causing a large wave that might flood parts of the village.

Elkjaer said that “police and local authorities will evaluate the situation again tomorrow”.

Lina Davidsen, a security chief at the Greenland police, told Danish news agency Ritzau on Friday that authorities fear it could “calve and send a flood towards the village”.

Only those living closest to the iceberg have been evacuated, Ritzau reported.

Susanne K. Eliassen, a member of the village council, told the local newspaper Sermitsiaq that it was not unusual for large icebergs to be seen close to Innaarsuit.

“But this iceberg is the biggest we have seen… and there are cracks and holes that make us fear it can calve anytime,” she said, adding that the village’s power station and fuel tanks are close to the shore.

Nobody is staying unnecessarily close to the beach and all children have been told to stay in areas that are high up.

The incident comes weeks after scientists at New York University shot and released a video of a massive iceberg breaking free from a glacier in eastern Greenland in June.

An expert warned that extreme iceberg events will become more frequent.

“Iceberg production in Greenland has been increasing in the past 100 years as climate change has become stronger,” William Colgan, senior researcher at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told AFP.

He said the rising number of icebergs are in turn “increasing the tsunami hazards” which occur when they break away from a glacier and trigger a tidal wave.

Last year, four people died and 11 were injured after an earthquake sparked a tsunami off another island settlement called Nuugaatsiaq, sending several houses crashing into the sea.

- Reporting from AFP and Associated Press 

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