Environment

Greenland villagers evacuated after iceberg comes to town

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GREENLAND – Residents of a village in Greenland are nervously watching the weather forecast after an 11 million-tonne iceberg floated almost to their doorstep.

The iceberg grounded itself on the sea floor near the small village of Innaarsuit, in northwestern Greenland, which has a population of 169.

Their fate could depend entirely on the weather forecast.

A massive iceberg caused the evacuation of the Greenland village of Innarsuit.

Photo: AP

If a strong enough wind blows at the right time, the berg could be dislodged from the spot where it has grounded, and float harmlessly into Baffin Bay.

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But if Mother Nature brings enough rain, the relatively warm precipitation could further destabilise the iceberg, sending a chunk of it into the ocean and creating a tsunami that could wash away part of the town.

"We are very concerned and are afraid," Karl Petersen, chair for the local council in Innaarsuit, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

The iceberg is 200 metres wide and rises nearly 100 metres above sea level, according to the New York Times. In terrifying pictures, it literally casts a shadow on a hilly outcropping of Innaarsuit, dwarfing boats, homes and businesses.

Residents don't need lengthy memories to know the effect even a small tsunami could have on the country that doubles as the world's biggest island.

Last June, according to Quartz, a landslide caused by a 4.1 magnitude earthquake that struck 17 miles north of the village of Nuugaatsiaq partly triggered a tsunami that washed away 11 homes and killed four people.

Meanwhile, scientists have revealed they captured dramatic video of an iceberg six kilometres wide breaking off from a glacier in eastern Greenland.

New York University professor David Holland, an expert in atmospheric and ocean science, told The Associated Press that "this is the largest event we've seen in over a decade in Greenland."

A June 22 video of the incident was taken by his wife, Denise Holland of NYU's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. They had camped by the Helheim Glacier for weeks to collect data to better project sea level changes due to global warming.

Holland said Wednesday that the time-lapse video, which is speeded up 20 times, shows "3 per cent of the annual ice loss of Greenland occur in 30 minutes."

"It sounded like rockets going off," he said, describing it as "a very complex, chaotic, noisy event."

While the couple is studying Greenland, he said that "the real concern is in Antarctica, where everything is so big the stakes are much higher."

Meanwhile, in Innaarsuit residents were waiting to return to their homes.

"Its residents were evacuated in the early hours of Friday in fears that a flood would hit the place as a result of the broken iceberg," Greenland police spokeswoman Lina Davidsen told Danish broadcaster TV2.

"All the people in the danger area have been evacuated to a building that is further up in the village," Davidsen said. "The evacuation happened only because the iceberg is so close to the village."

Innaarsuit is located about 1000 kilometres north of Nuuk, Greenland's capital and largest city.

Earthquakes and tsunamis have created major floods in Greenland in the past years.

AP, with Washington Post

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