Police call off search for Greenland tsunami missing

Four people are now presumed dead after police called off their search following the landslide and subsequent flood in western Greenland earlier this month, as experts continue to assess the cause of the disaster.

Police call off search for Greenland tsunami missing
Greenland's flag flying at half mast in Copenhagen. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix

Three adults and one child, who have not been seen since a tsunami hit the village of Nuugaatsiaq on June 17th, are now presumed to have died in the flood.

Searches using planes helicopters, ships and dinghies were all carried out without turning up any sign of the missing people, reports Danish news agency Ritzau.

Police admitted as early as last week that they did not expected to find the missing persons alive.

The four are thought to have been washed to sea after a landslide fell into the Karrat Fjord on the west coast of the Danish autonomous territory.

Waves hit the village with such force that 11 houses were also dragged into the sea.

Artic Command told Ritzau that the area washed away by the wave measured 1100 by 300 metres.

Several villages in the area remain evacuated in a precaution against further landslides.

While authorities are still alert to the danger of further tsunamis, five villages, as well of the town of Uummannaq, were assessed Saturday as being out of the risk area should further incidents occur.

Researchers remain uncertain as to how the landslide itself was started.

READ ALSO: Experts uncertain on cause of Greenland disaster

David M. Kerrick, a former assistant professor of Mathematics and Physics at The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, told The Local that he believed the Greenland tsunami to have been caused by an earthquake.

“Right now I am of the opinion that the tsunami in Greenland was caused by an earthquake. In general this has to do with a possible connection, I believe, between events in the Pacific Ring of Fire and the South Sandwich Trench, which ‘moves’ things along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge towards Iceland, impacting North America and Europe,” Kerrick wrote via email.

The Pacific Ring of Fire is an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean associated with a series of oceanic trenches, volcanoes and plate movements.

The Greenland earthquake may be related to new or existing faults being opened by geophysical changes whose effects have also been seen in other unusual tremors, Kerrick said.

“As I see it, the connection between the Pacific Ring of Fire and the South Sandwich trench moving up along the mid-Atlantic ridge towards Iceland, opens up new or possibly already existing ‘hairline’ faults proceeding from Iceland moving into North America,” the professor wrote.

Experts with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) initially said the tsunami had been started by an earthquake, but began to doubt this after receiving reports of tidal waves 30 kilometres away.

The size of the tidal wave was too great to have been caused by an earthquake of the magnitude measured, GEUS seismologist Peter Voss told DR.

Reports on June 18th suggested an earthquake measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale had struck off the Greenland coast.

Trine Dahl Jensen, a senior researcher with GEUS, told Ritzau the day after the tsunami that earthquakes of that magnitude were “not normal” in western Greenland.

Voss told DR last week that data should be analysed before any conclusions could be made.

“Measurements of earthquakes and landslides resemble each other. We have to find out what started the landslide – whether or not it was an earthquake,” he said.


Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

READ ALSO: Greenland seabed scoured for marine diamonds