Relief in northern Sweden as flooding shows signs of peaking

Spring floods in one of Sweden's longest rivers, Torneälven, have been described as the worst in 50 years, with the river 50 metres wider than usual in some areas. On Monday morning, there were signs that flooding had peaked.

Relief in northern Sweden as flooding shows signs of peaking
Flooding at Övertorneå. Photo: Lisa Björk/TT

“The situation is still serious,” Hugo Rudebeck from national weather agency SMHI told TT.

The strong spring flood has led SMHI to issue the most serious red weather warning for flooding in the lower part of the Torneälven, although, according to Rudebeck, there were signs during Sunday night and early on Monday morning that flooding upstream of Haparanda is lessening.

“We need some more measurements, but it doesn’t look like it’s rising any more,” he said. “However, it’s still very high, so even if it doesn’t rise any more, the situation is still serious. The warning will still be in place.”

Further north in Övertorneå, water levels have dropped by around 10 centimetres during the night, according to Roland Mäki from the rescue services.

“Now it’s going in the right direction, it’s nice to see some positive numbers,” he said.

Mäki was unsure as to the number of people affected by the floods in Övertorneå, or the extent of the damage in the area.

“People are used to the spring floods arriving, but they were unusually strong this year. I’ve never experienced this much water,” he said.

He added that although some people have contacted Sweden’s emergency services on 112, there are likely to be many others who have tried to fix issues themselves.

“I don’t dare to guess how many people have had flooding in their summer houses,” he said. “Insurance companies will be inundated with calls from people who have had their properties damaged.”

An outdoor swimming pool in the area made of concrete was lifted up by water pressure, Mäki said, so it’s likely that it will be out of action this summer.

“We’ll have to hope that the water level drops quickly so all the closed roads can be opened and damage can be inspected,” he added.

The head of rescue services in Haparanda, Fredrik Wuopio, agreed that it appeared the floods had peaked or would do soon.

“The situation is still critical with really high water levels, but I think we may have reached the peak or we will today. That doesn’t mean that the danger is over, a lot can still happen.”

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Weather agency warns of further forest fire risk across Sweden

Sweden's weather agency SMHI has extended its weather warnings for grass and forest fires which now cover most of the country. Fire bans are in place in many areas.

Weather agency warns of further forest fire risk across Sweden

The risk for forest fires is now “very high” in many areas of southern Sweden, the agency warns, with an “extremely high” risk of forest fires in eastern Götaland, an area in the southeast of the country encompassing cities such as Linköping and Vimmerby.

In the north of Sweden, many areas have a high or very high risk of grass fires as last year’s dead grass is exposed by melting snow before new grass has time to take its place.

“Great care should be taken when lighting fires outside,” the agency writes, adding that fire bans are in place in many areas.

See a list of current fire bans in place here. Areas in green have no fire ban in place, while red or orange areas have either a fire ban or a “strict fire ban” in place.

During a fire ban, you are not permitted to light a fire with wood, coal, grass, branches or similar in any forest area, non-built up area or area where a fire could spread to a forest or other terrain.

You are allowed to grill or barbecue on your own property as long as the grill is in a suitable area so that there is a low risk of a fire spreading – for example, if the grill is placed on a heat-resistant surface. The same applies to restaurants or other commercial businesses on their own premises.

You are also permitted to grill in fixed barbecue areas in public parks, such as barbecue areas built in fireproof materials and surrounded by gravel or similar.

According to the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, the fire risk is likely to increase throughout the week, peaking on Sunday.