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It is a jewel in the crown of Norway’s national heritage.

But fire has devastated the historic village of Laerdalsoyri, destroying up to 30 of its wooden buildings.

Amid strong winds, fire crews could not prevent the blaze spreading to part of the site named on the Unesco World Heritage list. Three buildings burned in the protected area.

For local people in the western town, the blaze, which spread from one house on Saturday night, is nothing short of a tragedy.

“Terrible, completely terrible,” said one shocked resident.

“It feels a little better when I can’t see the flames anymore…the fact that it is starting to get darker down there. But a few hours ago, it was terrible.”

Arild Foerde, who lives nearby, said: “The people I met when I came down were very calm but you can see that it has had a deep impact on them. It is difficult to know what to say.”

This could also, so nearly, have been a human tragedy. While dozens needed treatment after breathing in smoke, no deaths were reported.

Fire crews did manage to get the better of this blaze. But as an investigation into its cause begins, nothing can replace the precious properties that have been lost.

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