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Hydroengineering Tunnelling through a glacier keeps villages from flooding

A glacial lake in Switzerland has been filling with meltwater, endangering the residents of the valley. To try to stop the risk of flooding, a trench is being dug through the glacier.

On the Plaine-Morte external linkglacier between cantons Bern and Valais, several glacial lakes fill with meltwater which in midsummer threatens to rush down into the valley.

To prevent this, structural emergency measures are being implemented to prevent one of the lakes from causing another critical flood situation in the Simmental valley. Last summer a campsite and restaurant were evacuated and around 100 people had to spend a night in shelters.

As a preventive measure, a trench is being dug through the middle of the glacier ice so that the water will drain off automatically once it reaches a certain height.

The measures are intended to reactivate the drainage system through a combination of trenching and micro-tunnelling. The water should pass through the ice barrier and be discharged into the existing glacier mill. The measures cost around CHF2 million ($2 million).

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