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Flood-hit areas struggle to return to normal

Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger appeared shocked by the extent of the damage

(Keystone)

The situation in the flood-hit areas of Switzerland improved on Friday although thousands of people remained cut off from the outside world.

Visiting one of the worst hit areas, Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger expressed dismay at the level of devastation while praising measures which had helped limit the damage.

As clean-up operations continued it was reported that the body of a missing woman had been recovered, bringing the death toll to six.

Across the country water levels in lakes and rivers were steady or falling. But with more rain forecast for the weekend it was unclear how the situation would develop.

The 300 residents of Bern's low-lying Matte district who had been forcibly evacuated from their homes began returning.

In the Bernese Oberland communities, including Grindelwald, which had been cut off were once again accessible by road. But in central Switzerland many places remained isolated.

In the central canton of Obwalden the tourist resort of Engelberg and the Melchtal valley were still only reachable by helicopter.

Leuenberger in Nidwalden

During the afternoon the environment minister visited the neighbouring canton of Nidwalden, where he inspected the damage. Leuenberger also met members of the fire brigade and civilian volunteers and thanked them for their assistance to the flood victims.

Although dismayed at the extent of the damage, Leuenberger remarked that it could have been far worse had it not been for the preventive measures taken in certain areas.

Meanwhile President Samuel Schmid has defended himself against criticism that he has not been seen in public often enough since the onset of flooding at the start of the week.

Schmid said he had visited flood-hit areas on Monday and had met members of the public, while on Tuesday he had held talks with local officials.

The government is to discuss the aftermath of the disaster at a meeting next week.

Swiss Solidarity, the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, announced that it had raised SFr1.3 million ($1.03 million) by Friday afternoon. On Thursday evening the total stood at SFr500,000.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

By Friday afternoon the charity Swiss Solidarity had raised around SFr1.3 million for the victims of the flooding.
The fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation - swissinfo's parent company - is holding a national fundraising day on August 31 for those worst affected by the flooding.
Donations can be pledged by telephone between 6am and 12pm.
Donations can also be made through post office account 10-15000-6.

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