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Floods and fears start to recede

The floods have caused widespread damage, such as this swimming pool in the alpine resort of Klosters.

(Keystone)

The Gotthard road, the north-south axis through the Swiss Alps, reopened on Saturday. Elsewhere the flood situation also improved.

Hundreds of people were able to spend the night in their own homes on Friday night in canton Bern, one of the worst affected areas.

In the Brienz and Reichenbach in canton Bern the planned evacuation of around 1,000 people was cancelled as flooding stated to recede.

Police said the water levels in the central Swiss areas of Lucerne and Obwalden had remained stable. Roads that had been closed in Uri, also in the heart of Switzerland, were reopened.

The authorities said that damages from the flooding were estimated at more than SFr1 billion ($794 million). Agricultural damage could be as much as SFr10 million.

Private insurances say their costs could run into millions of Swiss francs, including household and car insurance claims.

More rain is however forecast for the weekend making it unclear how the situation would develop.

Death toll

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

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.

Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger visited some of the worst affected areas on Friday.

In the canton of Nidwalden, which neighbours Obwalden, Leuenberger 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.

Criticism

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 around SFr2million by Saturday. On Thursday evening the total stood at SFr500,000.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

By Saturday the charity Swiss Solidarity had raised around SFr2 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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