More than 100 reindeer killed by freight trains in Norway ‘bloodbath’

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Sixty-five animals died on railway track on Saturday while further 41 killed last week during winter migration

A train passes by dead reindeer near Mosjoen, northern Norway
 A train passes by the bodies of dead reindeer near Mosjøen, northern Norway. Photograph: John Erling Utsi/AP

More than 100 reindeer have been killed by freight trains in northern Norway in the past days in what has been called a senseless tragedy.

One train killed 65 deer on a track on Saturday while 41 died between Wednesday and Friday, the public broadcaster NRK reported late on Sunday.

“I’m so angry that I’m dizzy,” the owner of the 65 dead reindeer, Ole Henrik Kappfjell, told NRK. “It’s a senseless animal tragedy … a psychological nightmare.”

Norway is home to about 250,000 semi-domestic reindeer and most of them live in the far north of the country. At this time of year, herders take the reindeer to the winter pastures in search of grazing grounds, a perilous journey as many animals are hit by cars and trains. Some also drown.

Photos taken by the documentary filmmaker Jon Erling Utsi showed dead reindeer lying in the blood-stained snow. Some were shot after they were left wounded in Saturday’s incident. “It was a nightmare to watch,” he told NRK.

“The worst thing was the animals that were not killed in the accident. They were lying there, suffering. It was a bloodbath over several kilometres,” he added.

More than 2,000 reindeer were hit along the same northern railway line between 2013 and 2016.

The herders are demanding that the railway operator install a fence along the track but as yet there has been no funding.

Europe’s Scorching Heatwave Forces Germany to Impose Autobahn Speed Limits

[Poor things will be forced to only drive 100km/ph on the freeway…]
Dangerous Heatwave Brings ‘Hell’ to Western Europe
Temperatures could reach over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

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By WILLIAM WILKESBRIAN PARKIN, and BLOOMBERG

6:11 AM EDT

A blistering heatwave prompted Germany to impose speed restrictions on usually limit-free stretches of its high-speed motorways Wednesday, the latest sign of extreme weather events ruffling Europe’s largest economy.

State authorities are reducing speeds to as low as 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) on some stretches because of fears that the unusually high temperatures could create potentially deadly cracks on Autobahn surfaces, a highways agency spokesman said. Temperatures in Germany on Wednesday could surpass a June high of 38.2 degrees Celsius (101 Fahrenheit), according to the country’s DWD weather service. The all-time record of 40.3 degrees, set in July 2015, could also fall.

Meteorologists blame climate change for sending a blast of air from the Sahara desert into Western Europe. The sweltering heat echoes a sustained drought in 2018 across Germany that halted shipping on the Rhine River, hampered power generation, sparked forest fires and forced the country to import grain for the first time in 24 years. Rising temperatures are making violent convective storms more likely, mirroring a trend in the U.S. Midwest.

Health Risks

The early summer heat has already sparked wildfires outside Berlin. In Paris, volunteers distributed water to homeless people after the French government closed schools and activated a contingency plan to protect residents. The Red Cross warned that excessive heat could cause dizziness, convulsions and hallucinations, especially for older people. Electricity prices across the continent surged on expectations Europeans would turn on fans and air conditioning units to keep cool.

Europe’s heat in June — part of a string of extraordinary weather patterns including temperatures of more than 50 degrees in India that killed over 180 people — is the latest reminder of the tangible effects of climate change.

With those risks harder to ignore, environmental concerns have rocketed up the political agenda. Support for Germany’s Green Party has eclipsed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats to become the country’s strongest party in some recent polls.

Coal Conflict

Political tensions are high. Over the weekend, German police forcibly removed protesters who stormed an open-pit coal mine owned by German utility RWE AG, Europe’s biggest corporate emitter of carbon dioxide. Demonstrators blocked railroads used to carry the fuel to nearby power plants over what they see as the slow pace of Germany’s plans to exit coal.

“Nothing less than our future is at stake,” said Nike Malhaus, spokeswoman for protest group Ende Gelaende. “We are taking the coal phaseout into our own hands, because the government is failing to protect the climate.”

Temperatures in Switzerland are about 10 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The high temperatures means glaciers will likely shrink further, increasing the likelihood that the Rhine will again be too shallow for shipping later this year, according to Switzerland’s federal weather agency.

No Carriages

Meanwhile, Europeans are adapting to this week’s heat in ways large and small. Brussels has suspended horse-and-carriage rides for tourists. The decision was taken out of respect for the animals’ welfare, said Fabian Maingain, the Belgian city’s chief for economic affairs, told Le Soir newspaper. Similar decisions have been taken by Antwerp and Ostend.

Bring Out Your Dead

There’s a point reached in every search and rescue effort when you realize that you’re no longer searching for survivors, you’re looking for bodies. The Malaysian jet searchers surely reached it long ago, while the rescuers in the tragic Oso mudslide are still grappling with it. Today they began using cadaver-sniffing dogs, which must have been an ominous sign for those on the scene. I know as long as there’s still the slightest chance of finding someone alive they must keep searching. The thought of anyone floating the Pacific or trapped for days in the dark is enough to spur people on beyond the usual bounds of reasonability.

I grappled, and then reached the point of realization on day four of a search for a missing trail worker, ironically also in that same area. I was working on a trail crew on the Darrington district for the U.S. Forest Service where I not only experienced the anguish of not being able to find someone, but also frustration with a disorganized search party, led by an overly bureaucratic Forest Service and local sheriff’s department.

It was my first day out with this particular trail crew. I hadn’t yet had the chance to

Text and Photograph©Jim Robertson, 2014.

Text and Photograph©Jim Robertson, 2014.

meet the victim we would soon frantically be looking for. Her name was Jill; I remember because we yelled it over and over the first night we searched for her. She was only 18 and not very skilled in outdoor survival.

Our assignment that day had been to split into two groups and teach the wilderness rangers about clearing trails while they told us what they knew about wilderness ethics. The group I was in hiked up the Suiattle River in the Glacier Peak Wilderness area, sawing out blown down trees with a cross cut saw as we went. The other group, that included Jill, was to hike up the Sulfur Mountain trail to the snowline, cutting out blow-downs as they went.

That group was led by a gung ho wilderness ranger who was more interested in a race to the top of the mountain for a view than with staying together. They skipped past the logs across the trail and hastily made for the mountaintop. When Jill had to rest, exhausted, she told them, “You guys go on without me,” and they did just that.

The climb up to the view took a couple of hours and Jill probably got hungry or tired of waiting. Deciding to head down to camp, she must have accidentally taken an animal trail that led down toward a steep ravine—or at least that’s what we surmised later. She wasn’t there when her group returned down from their single-minded climb and she never made it back to camp. My group was about to have dinner when they burst into camp and asked if we’d seen Jill. We abandoned our meals and started up the switchbacks yelling her name but heard no reply.

Long story short, we searched for four days, over the same ground, all the while staying well clear of the steep ravine—as per the search leaders’ orders. At the morning meeting on the third day I told the sheriff I had been with a couple of volunteers and their bloodhound called in from Canada the day before. The dog had tried to drag us toward the steep mountainside that led to the ravine above Sulfur Creek, so we should be searching there. Since I was a nobody, the sheriff ignored me and ordered yet another search of the same territory, down the gentler slope to the Suiattle River, that we had covered several times already.

By the fourth day, the wilderness ranger who had abandoned Jill in the first place announced, “I really have the feeling we’re going to find her today.” No matter how I tried to share in his enthusiasm, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “We’re looking for a body now.” Anyone injured out there would have a hard time surviving so many cold nights without help. It was only then that climbers with ropes and gear were called in to check the ravine. Soon we heard the radio call to return to basecamp and abandon the search.

We weren’t told if Jill was alive or dead, just that we should stay in basecamp for “debriefing.” After several hours of waiting, we finally saw a helicopter heading our way, dangling a body bag. Those who knew her burst into tears. The morbid sight was a bit easier for me to take; by then I had known for a while that we were on a body recovery mission. During the debriefing we were told that she died instantly from the fall; I just have to trust that that was true. At least she was found; the news from Oso tells us, “Grim reality: some slide victims may not be found.”

Jill’s father later tried to sue those responsible, but learned that you can’t sue the federal government. In typical Forest Service fashion, the wilderness ranger who left Jill alone on the mountainside was not fired, but promoted to conceal any wrongdoing on his part.

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