First batch of Bondo evacuees return home

Inhabitants gathered on the town square for wine and roast chestnuts. Keystone and agencies

Almost two months after the devastating landslide that displaced hundreds from the Swiss town of Bondo, the first wave of inhabitants has been able to move back home.

It happened on Saturday, when the road to Bondo was finally reopened. A relief for 65 out of the 160 residents evacuated following the landslide of August 23 – one of the largest in Swiss history, which also resulted in the disappearance of eight hikers, presumed dead.

The residents had since been living in temporary accommodation, unable to return due to material damage and the risks of further falling debris.

Current returnees are only those from the so-called “green zone”, where significant efforts (building of a safe access road and bridge, restoration of the water and electricity supplies, cleaning of the sewerage system) have made access possible.

Despite this progress, there remains much to do; the rebuilding efforts will take years. 

The “red zone”, closer to the epicentre of the rockfall, remains out of bounds. A dozen excavating machines and 15 large construction dumper trucks continue to work 20 hours per day to clear the debris, notably from a large holding basin designed to catch falling rocks and mud.

The red zone also remains under the shadow of further falls; some 1.5 million cubic metres of rock is currently unstable, half as much as in the first big landslide in August.

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