Sweden’s Luleå carves spot for giant beaver

The northern Swedish town of Luleå has unveiled its annual giant animal-themed ice sculpture, with a beaver selected for 2015.

Sweden's Luleå carves spot for giant beaver
Luleå's beaver. Photo: Luleå Kommun
Hans Eglund, a local artist, has been producing cool creations for the city since 1986. Last year he carved up an enormous hedgehog. This time he has made a beaver.
The icy artwork is both a sculpture designed to be admired by visitors and an attraction for children – each animal includes a giant slide each year so that children can play on it.
Asked why he felt his work was so popular, Eglund told The Local on Tuesday that it was because it was "both art and a playground".
As in previous years, the animal selected had to be one found in the region. Previous ice animals in the city include a pig, a giant hedgehog and a woodpecker.
But Eglund admitted to The Local that there was no burning reason why he had selected a beaver for 2015.
"It is because we haven't had that animal before and I also had a small model of a beaver at home, so I had something to work with to help build a bigger ice animal."
The local tourist office was more enthusiastic about the artwork.
"It's such a nice tradition," said Karin Åberg, communications manager for Visit Luleå.
"The sculpture is something that helps people who are living in Luleå to appreciare winter time and every year it is attracting more and more visitors."

Luleå has previously hosted a giant woodpecker. Photo: Visit Luleå/Fredrik Broma
Asked if the region would soon run out of animal inspiration, Åberg told The Local: "Ha ha you might think so but we still have a lot of different birds and fish to get through before that!"
The animal was put into position on Tuesday morning, with the childrens' slide expected to be completed by the end of the week.


VIDEO: Meet the rooftop snow clearers keeping Stockholm safe

Stockholm's snow-topped buildings may look charming, but heavy snowfall can be dangerous. An army of 'sweepers' take to the city's rooftops to clear them of snow in a carefully managed operation.

VIDEO: Meet the rooftop snow clearers keeping Stockholm safe
Rooftop snow cleaner Andrei Pilan clears buildings in Stockholm's picturesque old town. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Teetering on the edge of a black tin roof ten metres (33 feet) above ground, Andrei Plian and Alex Lupu clear a thick white blanket of snow off a building in Stockholm's historic Gamla Stan (Old Town), while their colleague on the street below keeps watch to warn pedestrians passing by.

While to many the job would be vertigo-inducing, for Plian and Lupu – two roofers by trade – it gives them a chance to admire the view.

“Being here on the roof and looking up at the sky, you feel that freedom,” Plian tells AFP, seemingly ignoring the biting subzero chill.

Secured with ropes, carabiners and a safety harness, he climbs the few remaining steps on a ladder attached to the roof and breaks the serene quiet of the sunny February morning with a clank as his shovel hits the tin roof.

Click on video below to watch:

The constant clearing of snow from the city's roofs is first and foremost done for “the safety of the people”, but also to maintain the buildings, many of which are hundreds of years old.

“If there is too much snow on the roof it is too heavy for it so you have to take it off,” the 36-year-old says

A ten-year roofing veteran, he moves around fluidly and with confidence. Getting the job done quickly is key as more roofs are waiting, but safety remains a top priority.

“Every time you have to think about safety, it's the number one rule. You don't have room for a mistake here. If you make one mistake it could be your last,” Plian says.

In early February, another snow clearer was seriously injured while clearing a roof in the northern Swedish town of Umeå, with initial findings showing he wasn't wearing his safety harness.

Under Swedish law, property owners are responsible for clearing snow and ice off their buildings if it threatens to fall and injure someone, but accidents are rare.

“As far as I can remember there has only been two deaths in the last 20-30 years or so,” Staffan Moberg, spokesman for the insurer industry group Svensk Försäkring, told AFP.

In one case in 2002, a 14-year-old died after being struck by a large block of ice that broke off a building on Stockholm's main shopping street Drottninggatan.

Moberg added that they don't keep statistics on incidents since they are rarely requested, and while accidents do happen on occasion, “the consequences are mostly not lethal and very seldom even severe”.

But after every fresh snowfall, signs immediately sprout up on sidewalks and facades warning passers-by of the risk of falling snow and ice, awaiting the arrival of the “snowploughs” in the sky.

While Plian and Lupu are busy at work on the roof above, Fredrik Ericsson is tasked with ensuring the safety of pedestrians down below.

Using a high-pitched whistle, he signals their comings and goings: when he blows his whistle once the shovelling stops to let people pass, and two whistles signals the all-clear to resume work.

Ericsson concedes that it can be a tricky task as people are often oblivious, sometimes wilfully, to the work going on.

“They don't show that much respect, they just walk past, so I have to stop and yell at them,” he explains. “They don't see the danger.”

By AFP's Helene Dauschy