Climate risks: severe flooding affects Scandinavia as Hans hits

Heavy rainfall has caused massive disruption across wide parts of southern Scandinavia – extreme weather which is being attributed to climate change.

The flooding has caused a train to derail and roads to flood in what officials in Sweden and Norway warned could become the most extreme wet weather system to hit the region in decades.

Swedish and Norwegian meteorologists issued red alerts, the most severe warning level, covering several days this week and said the hardest hit places could receive a month or more worth of normal rainfall in 24 hours and the worst floods in 25 years in Norway, or even 50 years for Sweden.

A train carrying more than 100 passengers derailed in eastern Sweden as the rain partly washed away the railway embankment, injuring three people who were taken to hospital, police said.

Gale force winds and thunderstorms knocked out local power lines and disrupted several Baltic and North Sea ferries as well as some air traffic, while Norway suspended certain train services and postponed a number of outdoor football matches.

Hitting Sweden late on Sunday and reaching Norway on Monday 7 August, the low pressure system was dubbed “Hans” by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, which said naming the weather system makes it easier to get the public’s attention.

Authorities warned those most affected to stay away from rivers and steep slopes and only travel when strictly necessary. They said there was a high risk of widespread property damage as the downpour was set to continue in the coming days.

Neighbouring Denmark also saw heavy rainfall and issued a yellow alert, a lower-level warning, while meteorologists in Finland said the country could see severe thunderstorms later this week.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he expected extreme weather events to become more frequent.

“This is an effect of climate change, with wilder and wetter weather in Norway,” Stoere told public broadcaster NRK.