OSLO (Reuters) - A polar bear attacked a group of British campers on Friday, killing a 17-year-old boy and seriously injuring four people camping in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic, Norwegian officials said.
The bear entered a tent camp of the British Schools Exploring Society, a youth development charity, some 40 km (25 miles) east of the town of Longyearbyen, said Liv Asta Oedegaard, spokeswoman for the Svalbard governor’s office.
“The person killed is a 17-year-old boy, a British citizen, and the others are also British citizens,” she said.
She said the injured — aged 16, 17, 27 and 29 and all males — were flown by helicopter to Longyearbyen hospital and onward by aeroplane to Tromsoe on the Norwegian mainland.
Eight unhurt campers were being cared for in Longyearbyen on the central island of Spitsbergen. The exploring society organises expeditions to help youngsters develop self-confidence by introducing them to wild, remote environments.
Svalbard, a renowned polar bear habitat, is in the Arctic Ocean about halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. The attack occurred near the edge of Von Post Glacier and was reported by satellite phone at 6:34 a.m. British time, Oedegaard said.
After the attack the bear was killed by an armed member of the British group, she said, adding: “Our investigators are still trying to figure out exactly what happened.”
She said the campers had surrounded their group of tents with a tripwire designed to set off a flare gun if touched by a bear.
“If this tripwire worked, or if the bear crossed over it in a clever way, we don’t know,” Oedegaard said.
She said everyone who hikes or skis in remote areas of Svalbard is advised to carry a gun. “We strongly recommend that folks who are out in the field take a rifle or shotgun with sufficiently powerful ammunition,” she said.
Editing by Tim Pearce