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Flooding remains critical as death toll rises

Parts of Interlaken are under water

(Keystone)

At least four people have been killed and thousands were evacuated from their homes as Switzerland struggled with flooding after days of torrential rain.

The main north-south traffic links remained suspended due to the bad weather but officials expect the situation to improve gradually later this week.

Rescue officials recovered two bodies in the small town of Brienz in the Bernese Oberland and the village of Dürnten in the Zurich Oberland region on Tuesday.

The victims were killed when a building collapsed while another was found drowned in a swollen stream.

Police said two other people are reported missing, feared dead, in mudslides and flooding following some of the heaviest rainfall on record in Switzerland.

On Sunday two firefighters died near Lucerne when they tried to help evacuate a farm.

Flooding

Water levels of rivers and lakes across much of Switzerland remained high, but the situation appeared to stabilise in some regions as the weather improved slightly.

However, many rivers burst their banks and lakes reached record levels, flooding parts of the capital Bern as well as in the city of Lucerne.

Many villages and mountain valleys in the disaster regions, notably in central and eastern Switzerland, are sealed off.

Some 1,500 tourists are trapped in the mountain resort of Engelberg and were being flown out by helicopter. Power supplies were interrupted and telephone lines only worked intermittently.

Drinking water was contaminated in several parts of Switzerland.

Cutt off

Dozens of roads and rail links, including the main north-south railway line through the Gotthard tunnel, remained closed on Tuesday.

Officials said they hoped that the Lötschberg rail link in western Switzerland could re-open on Wednesday.

The armed forces sent about 1,000 soldiers to the crisis regions to support civilian rescue operations.

The authorities estimate the damage caused by the floods to total around SFr500 ($322 million).

Neighbouring regions in southern Germany and in Austria were also hit by flooding and landslides.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

At least four people have been killed and another two are missing in the worst flooding in Switzerland since 1999.
Thousands of people have been evacuated.
The damage is estimated at about SFr500 million ($322 million).
Flooding and landslide also hit other regions in Europe, notably southern Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria.

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