Water enters US Doomsday seed vault after breach in entrance

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Racks are seen aligned in a seed vault on February 24, 2008 near Longyabyen. Aimed at providing mankind with a Noah's Ark of food in the event of a global catastrophe, an Arctic "doomsday vault" filled with samples of the world's most important seeds will be inaugurated here on Fenbruary 26. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Nobel Peace Prize winning environmentalist Wangari Matai will be among the personalities present at the inauguration of the vault, which has been carved into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, just some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the North Pole. AFP PHOTO/ Hakon Mosvold Larsen / Scanpix - NORWAY OUT (Photo credit should read Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Unseasonably warm temperatures last fall caused water to breach the entrance to the Arctic’s so-called “Doomsday” seed vault, one of humanity’s last hopes after a global catastrophe, the company that manages the vault said last week.

The Global Seed Vault is beneath the icy permafrost of Svalbard, midway between Norway and the North Pole. Carved into the side of a mountain, the vault holds more than 500 million seeds from around the globe that could be used to recreate food supplies.

The seeds were unharmed by the water breach. Hege Njaa Aschim, a spokeswoman for the management company, Statsbygg, said water seeped only about 15 meters in to part of an access tunnel during the “very unusual warm and rainy October.”

“We have seen changes; the ground is looser and the permafrost has not settled as planned,” Aschim said Friday.

She said the management team, along with climate scientists from University Centre in Svalbard, don’t know if the event was part of a long-term cycle or if it will escalate. But “we will not take any chances,” Aschim said.

Remediation efforts include removing power transformers from the entrance of the tunnel, allowing fewer people into the tunnel, and building waterproof walls inside the tunnel entrance, Aschim said.

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