Stockholm police issue melting ice alert

Two walkers fell through melting ice on Lake Mälaren in central Stockholm yesterday as warmer temperatures and underwater currents prompted police to issue a melting ice alert.

Stockholm police issue melting ice alert

“We noticed that a lot of people were out on the ice so we issued a warning over the radio,” Christina Johansson from Stockholm police told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

However the warning almost came too late for one couple who fell through the ice near Lilla Essingen in the city centre. The couple managed to climb back up but were brought to hospital suffering from hypothermia.

Anders Wernesten, a spokesperson for the Swedish Life Saving Society said that the ice can be deceptive as the snow covers hidden melted patches. Sluice gates connecting Mälaren to the sea have also been opened recently to lower water levels in the lake, leading to increased currents under the ice.

“With the sun warming the ice from above and warmer current eating into it from underneath, there is a really strong risk of going through the thinner ice,” he told DN.

“All of a sudden you can fall through the crust and end up in a kind of sorbet slush that is very hard to get out of.”

About a quarter of all drowning accidents in Sweden are related to people falling through ice, mainly during spring. Emergency services advise walkers and skiers to avoid going on the ice alone and to bring proper equipment, including ice picks.

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Be wary of perilous Easter ice, Sweden warned

The beginning of spring means an increased risk of falling through surface ice on lakes and watercourses that are thawing.

Be wary of perilous Easter ice, Sweden warned
File photo: Tobias Röstlund / TT

With April a particularly dangerous month, Easter holidaymakers have been advised to take extra care.

“There are a lot of snowmobiles out there during Easter. It is the time of year when snowmobiles are used the most, especially in the mountains. Easter falls very late this year and that means the ice is much weaker,” said Per-Olov Wikberg, coordinator with Nationella snöskoterrådet (National Snowmobile Council).

According to Wikberg, the majority of snowmobile accidents happen around Easter. Of 70 deaths due to accidents involving the vehicle type in the last ten years, almost half were the result of drowning. Several other serious ice-related accidents have also occurred.

“The thing that is special about snowmobiles is that they are heavy and can travel very fast. You can quickly find yourself on bad ice without hearing or seeing the warning signs,” he said.

A survey carried out by the snowmobile council found that three out of ten people had experienced an accident caused by ice breaking or nearly breaking.

Only four out of ten said they had consulted somebody with local knowledge before heading out onto the ice.

Authorities therefore advise the public to always prioritise safety when deciding whether to go out on the vehicles or on the ice in general, particularly in unfamiliar areas.

“This year it’s nasty. The ice can crack very fast and this does not depend so much on the temperature, but on the fact the sun is high in the sky. That warms the inside of the ice,” said project manager Jan Insulander of ice safety advisory board Issäkerhetsrådet.

“Keep in mind that ice that was hard and cold in the morning can become slush that you can fall through later in the day,” he added.

The National Snowmobile Council believes that the public needs better – potentially life-saving – knowledge about ice and lakes.

“Everyone should have respect for the ice, because the ice can quickly become bad in the spring because of heat and sunshine,” Wikberg said.

READ ALSO: Five top tips for staying safe on the ice in Sweden