Ships freed from Baltic Sea ice

Dozens of ships have been freed from thick ice in the Baltic Sea on Friday after iuce breakers worked diligently to end the ordeal of of thousands of passengers and crew stranded in freezing conditions off the Swedish coast.

Ships freed from Baltic Sea ice

“There are no more ships stuck in the ice,” Ann Ericsson of the Swedish Maritime Administration’s ice breaker unit, told AFP.

A number of vessels, including several large passenger ferries shuttling as many as 1,000 passengers each between Sweden, Finland and Estonia, become stuck Thursday just outside the Stockholm archipelago, where freezing winds had pushed thick ice towards the coast.

“We have not slept much,” Lena, a passenger on the Amorella ferry that broke free from the ice early Friday, told Sveriges Radio (SR).

“We’ve been interested in watching all the ice breakers and helicopters work.”

Two small ice breakers on Thursday failed to free the Amorella and several other smaller ferries, which had been forced to wait for the larger Ymer ice breaker to sail down from the Bay of Bothnia in the north.

There it had been working to free as many as 50 cargo ships and commercial vessels, some of which had been stuck for days, and in one case since last Saturday, according to the maritime administration.

Twelve ships were still docked near the central port city of Sundsvall for that ice breaker to return to escort them out, according to Ericsson.

“They’re waiting for help, but none of them are stuck,” she said, adding that the winds had died down and conditions at sea had become easier.

The Amorella ferry, which has the capacity to carry up to 1,313 passengers and crew, had collided with a Finnfellow ferry trapped nearby while trying to free itself from the ice.

Its owner Viking Line however insisted no damage was done to the ship and that there had at no time been any danger to the passengers.

Passengers on the Amorella were requested to move to the front of the boat to avoid any collision impact, according to Mats Nyström, one of the passengers.

The two ships “were simply drifting towards each other,” he told SR from the stranded ferry.

Finnfellow passenger Tapio Sippo meanwhile told Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that “there was a big crash.”

“The staff panicked more than us tough truck drivers,” he added.

The Swedish Maritime Administration issued a warning to ships not to take the route where most of the ferries became stuck.

“They got caught outside the archipelago, where there is moving ice. It’s hard to navigate,” Johny Lindvall, also of the Swedish Maritime Administration’s ice breaker unit, told AFP Thursday, adding that he had not seen so many ships stuck at once since the mid-1980s.

Sweden has suffered an unusually harsh winter this year, with temperatures across the country almost continuously well below freezing since December.

The large ferries are equipped to break their way through the thin layers of ice that often cover parts of the Baltic they traffic, but Swedish maritime authorities criticised their decision to ignore its warning and attempt to take the treacherous route near the Stockholm archipelago.

“The problem is that these big ferries think they can handle the ice. They have extremely powerful engines, but in this case the ice was simply too difficult for them,” Ulf Gullne, also of the administration’s ice breaker unit, told SR.

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Floods as Swedish cities get two months of rain in 24 hours

Large areas of Sweden saw extreme levels of rain over the weekend, with the city of Linköping receiving more than 100mm of rain in 24 hours, twice as it usually receives in the whole of August. 

Floods as Swedish cities get two months of rain in 24 hours

According to Swedish weather forecaster SMHI, the Linköping-Malmslätt area received 96mm between Saturday night at 8am on Sunday morning. The area normally received between 60mm and 70mm in August as a whole. 

“There was such an absurd amount of rain that the data was at first rejected by our system,” Therese Fougman, a meteorologist at the forecaster, told Sweden’s TT newswire. “It is continuing to rain during the day, and it is lying in a band over Östergötland, Sörmland och further up towards Uppland, predicting there would be a further 40mm to 50mm in the next 12 hours. 

The downpours have led to flooding in several areas, and caused traffic problem with cars at risk of aquaplaning on roads such as the E18, which were covered in a thick layer of water. 

Lennart Ågren, who was the duty leader of rescue services in Östra Götaland, told TT on Sunday afternoon that rescuers had been called out to several floods in Linköping and Mantorp. 

“There were streets under water, and water was running into properties so we had to throw all our resources at it for several hours,” he said. 

In Jönköping, rescue services were called out to flooding at a school and in other places, while in Växjö, lightening hit close to the place where a student party was being held at the local university campus. 

In Linköping, rescue services told TT that they had been called out 30 times. “We’ve been stretched but have managed to handle it,” said Pedher Helmer, who was in charge of rescue services in Östergötland over the weekend. 

The heavy rain is expected to move to Blekinge, Skåne, Öland and Gotland over the coming days, with a risk for flooding.