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Climate change Cantons watching 336 Alpine sites for natural disasters

mudslide on A2 motorway

Avalanches, rockslides and mudslides like this one on the A2 motorway in January 2018, are becoming more common because of climate change. 

(Keystone)

Swiss cantons are keeping 336 zones in the Alps under surveillance because of climate-change related risk, such as landslides, rock slides and mudslides, according to two Sunday newspapers. 

Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung say their investigation reveals for the first time “the extent of the surveillance and the number of critical locations under observation”. 

Experts say soil and rock in the Alps is becoming more fragile because of climate change, meaning parts could slide off into the valleys causing considerable damage. This risk is heightened by extreme weather such as last week’s torrential rains. 

The 336 slopes and rock faces are under surveillance because they could cause road and rail infrastructure to be cut off or destroy buildings, report the newspapers. Some sites are under 24-hour surveillance with radar, sensors equipped with GPS, cameras or lasers. Others are only examined periodically by geologists. Some places are equipped with automatic alarm systems.

Canton Bern has 131 sites under surveillance, situated mainly in ski resorts, the papers found. Canton Valais has 63 roads under observation, while in Graubünden 42 sites are classified as zones at risk. They include Bondo, where a massive mudslide in August 2017 killed eight people and partially buried the village. 

+ Read more about the Bondo mudslide 

Up to now, the sites under surveillance have not been known to the public, the newspapers say. Some cantons have refused to reveal what steps they have taken, saying they do not wish to spread fear, or that valuable surveillance equipment could be vandalised. 

Now, however, the Federal Office for the Environment is demanding that the cantons publish a unified list. Within five years all the information will be online, the papers report. 

Since 1946, 169 people have died in Switzerland because of landslides or rock slides. 

swissinfo.ch/jc

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