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Flooding remains critical in Switzerland

Inhabitants of Sarnen in canton Obwalden fight rising waters on Monday RTS

The skies have begun to clear over Switzerland, but floodwaters continue to rise on Tuesday in parts of the country where rains are only starting to taper off.

This content was published on August 23, 2005 - 07:06

The situation has improved slightly in canton Lucerne, but cantons Schwyz and Obwalden were fighting rising waters and the resort of Interlaken was partially flooded.

President Samuel Schmid, who is also defence minister, visited the disaster region around Lake Lucerne on Monday. He pledged government aid for the worst-affected areas.

Several hundred soldiers were deployed to support the civilian authorities.

Flooding stretched from western Switzerland to the north-eastern city of St Gallen as rivers burst their banks and lakes overflow.

The damage caused by the bad weather is estimated at SFr100 million ($79 million). It is the worst flooding for several years.

Evacuation

Thousands of people had to be evacuated from the homes in towns and villages, notably in central Switzerland as well as in and around the capital, Bern.

The authorities said two firefighters were killed by a mudslide on Sunday night in the Entlebuch region near Lucerne when they tried to help evacuate a farm.

Flooding in suburbs of Lucerne led to power cuts. Schools remained closed in many towns and supplies of drinking water were polluted.

The authorities said the transalpine train services were suspended because of the bad weather and the risk of landslides. The Lötschberg line in western Switzerland is due to re-open on Tuesday morning, according to railway officials.

Dozens of roads were roads, including motorways, were closed, police said.

Navigation along the river Rhine was brought to a standstill.

Wet outlook

Experts said water levels of many rivers and lakes were likely to rise in the next few hours.

Up to 110mm of rain fell in part of central and western Switzerland by Sunday.

As the downpour continued to fall on Monday as bulldozers cleared mud from the streets and firefighters pumped water from flooded basements in towns across the country.

Emergency services also started to pile up sandbags along rivers and lakes.

The Swiss Solidarity launched a fundraising campaign for the victims of the disaster.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

At least two firefighters were killed and thousands of people were evacuated because of torrential rains over the weekend.

The flooding and mudslides are estimated to have caused damage of up to SFr100 million ($79 million).

Since the 1970s, natural catastrophes have claimed the lives of nearly 100 people in Switzerland.

The damage caused by avalanches, flooding and landslides is estimated to have cost more than SFr9 billion over the past three decades.

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