16 Icelanders--Half Children--Feared Dead in Avalanche

From Reuters

Sixteen people, more than half of them children, were feared to have died in their beds early Monday when an avalanche smashed into a remote Icelandic fishing village.

Five bodies were recovered soon after thousands of tons of snow and ice slammed into 13 houses in the northwestern village of Sudavik.

Eleven others, nine of them children, were believed to be still buried in the snow and rubble Monday evening--12 hours after the avalanche. Rescue workers said their chances of survival were remote.

Authorities said fear of avalanches had prompted them to evacuate 15 houses in Sudavik--population 230--four hours before the avalanche struck, but that the evacuated houses were not hit.

Gudjun Petersen, director of Iceland's National Civil Defense, told reporters that part of the village had been evacuated hours before the avalanche tore through a different part of the village.

Eleven people, seven of them injured, were rescued from houses. Some of the rescued children, sleeping when the avalanche hit, had only their underwear on when they were dug out of the snow in temperatures of 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

A fierce storm was raging in the western part of Iceland, and weather conditions deteriorated Monday, making the search for the missing extremely difficult.

Rescuers, fearing more avalanches, evacuated the inhabitants of the village to a local fishing plant and then to nearby Isafjordur, the largest town in the region.

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