Body of 12 year-old avalanche victim recovered in Finnish Lapland

Cold, windy weather hampered the search operation. (Kati Rantala)

A 12-year-old boy who was caught in an avalanche at Pallastunturi in northwestern Finnish Lapland on Tuesday was found dead on Thursday, a relative of the child has confirmed to Yle.

A woman and child, both from the small town of Korsnäs in Ostrobothnia, were skiing near the Pallastunturi fell on Tuesday when they were caught in an avalanche.

The mother had called the emergency centre on Tuesday at 2 pm requesting assistance because of bad weather. Lapland’s rescue service started an off-road rescue mission, but was unable to contact the woman by phone and responders did not find the mother and child on the route she had indicated. At 4 pm the search was officially transferred to the police.

The woman was found dead on Tuesday evening at 10 pm.

Bad weather, difficult search

There were very windy conditions and the temperature in the area was around -23 degrees Celsius at the time of the avalanche.

The search for the boy continued Wednesday, was suspended overnight due to extreme cold and wind, and resumed Thursday morning.

“There was an avalanche in the area, the catchment area of which is very wide. There is a lot of snow at the search site, and the snow is packed very tightly,” Inspector Kirsi Huhtamäki of the Lapland Police Department, who was heading the search, stated in a release on Thursday morning.

The wide area of the avalanche, tightly packed snow, cold and windy conditions, as well as the risk of further avalanches, all combined to slow down the search effort.

The darkness of the Arctic night also hampered the search. These past few days, the region has had only about five hours of twilight. The sun will rise above the horizon on Friday for the first time in almost a month.

Expert warns of further avalanche danger

In an interview on Yle radio, Jari Uusikivi of the Finnish Environment Institute warned of the risk of avalanches specifically in the Pallastunturi fell area.

The danger is presently very real because of the usually large volumes of snow, he said. Steep slopes that suddenly become gentler, and the areas below them are particularly at risk. As the sun returns and its rays start to warm the snow, the threat will slowly recede.

Uusikivi noted that in Finland avalanches are usually caused by a person moving in such areas. The wind also plays a major role, as on Tuesday at Pallastunturi, where winds were at near storm readings.

The avalanche that claimed two lives Tuesday was unusually large for Finland. No statistics on avalanches are compiled in the country, but according to Jari Uusikivi, dozens are observed annually.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Warm weather increases risk of avalanche in northwestern Canada, CBC News

Finland: Warnings in Lapland after fatal avalanche in Sweden, Yle News

Sweden: Avalanche warning to snowmobilers in Swedish mountains, Radio Sweden

United States: Worker in Alaska’s Denali National Park dies after triggering avalanche, The Associated Press

Yle News

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