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Avalanche warning systems held under magnifying glass

A new study looks at how Switzerland coped with the devastating avalanches of exactly one year ago. The study concludes that notwithstanding the fatalities and huge material damage, warning systems were better than ever before.

This content was published on February 15, 2000 - 18:28

A new study looks at avalanche warning systems in Switzerland, exactly one year after a devastating series of natural disasters. The study concludes that notwithstanding the fatalities and huge material damage, Switzerland was better prepared than ever before.

The study was carried out by the Federal Snow and Avalanche Research Institute in Davos. It is the third such report, following those produced after the record snowfalls of 1887/8 and 1950/1.

The report recreates the events of one year ago, when snowfalls gave way to brighter weather and the danger of major avalanches appeared to have receded. But at the time, the institute correctly forecast more snow, with a corresponding increase in the risk of avalanches.

In the period that followed, more than 500 avalanches claimed 17 lives, as well as damage to buildings and property amounting to more than Sfr600 million. The institute blames the scale of the disaster on meteorological phenomena.

But it also highlights some shortfalls in protective measures and makes a number of recommendations. These include improving warning systems at local, regional and national level and training more avalanche specialists for deployment in the field.

Other suggested precautions range from studying the natural protection given by forests to improving risk management in inhabited areas.

From staff and wire reports





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