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Explosives removed from Gotthard tunnel area

Scherrer made the announcement at a press conference in Bern on Thursday Keystone

Explosives stored near the Gotthard road tunnel have been removed in time for its reopening on Friday, says the Swiss army.

General Chief of Staff, Hans-Ulrich Scherrer, confirmed in Bern on Thursday that the explosives, kept in a depot near the southern entrance of the Gotthard as part of Switzerland’s security system, had been removed before his target date of December 19. Explosives near the train tunnel will be taken away next January.

About 1,000 of Switzerland’s key tunnels and bridges are protected by a system of underground bunkers and stashes of explosives under a defence strategy dating back to World War II.

New restrictions

According to Scherrer, the storage of explosives at tunnels or airports will no longer be permitted. Other defence materials are likely to be removed next year.

However, for protection reasons, certain depots will be retained and Scherrer said safety standards in these depots were of the highest level.

The Defence Ministry previously told swissinfo the removal of explosives near the tunnel was in line with a general overhaul of Switzerland’s defence strategy underway since the end of the Cold War era.

The Gotthard tunnel, Switzerland’s main transalpine road axis, was closed for two months since a collision between two trucks in the tunnel sparked an inferno, killing 11 people.

A Defence Ministry spokesman had earlier stressed that there had been no danger that explosives in the Gotthard could have caught fire accidentally during the fire, as the material is stored a fair distance away from the actual tunnel passage.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR