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Bunkers still relevant today, says Civil Protection Office

Buried deep beneath Switzerland's picturesque houses and public buildings are a multitude of basement bomb shelters, which were originally built to protect the nation during the Cold War.

The usefulness of maintaining these bunkers is often questioned, but the Swiss Civil Protection Office argues that they still fulfil an important function.

"The shelters were designed for all kinds of incidents, such as nuclear or chemical accidents, not just war," says Jürg Balmer, head of International Affairs at the Office.

Protective filters

Balmer explains that the charcoal filters installed in the shelters absorb all known chemical and biological elements, although they may not be equipped to deal with agents under development.

"They can absorb only known agents, " says Balmer. "Nobody yet knows what the very new agents might be."

Despite this, Balmer says the Civil Protection Office is right to fund the maintenance of these shelters. "If you have a system that works, you have to maintain it, " he says, adding that investment is focused only on existing shelters and not on building new ones.

Balmer does not anticipate any change in this strategy, despite fears about security following the attacks of September 11 in New York and Washington.

"I really think that there isn't a big danger for Swiss citizens at the moment," says Balmer. "Everyone's aware that it's not Switzerland which is really threatened."

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