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Mountain deaths increase in Switzerland

Mountain rescue services have been putting in a lot of overtime

(Keystone Archive)

The number of mountain deaths in Switzerland rose by more than 40 per cent last year to 133, the highest number since 1993.

Good snow and weather conditions in the mountains in 2001 had enticed more mountaineers, walker and climbers to the Alps, Hanns Janni of the Swiss Alpine Club told swissinfo.

Because of the higher numbers there had been more accidents, in line with the law of averages.

But, according to the alpine club, weather, experience and the increasing number of people pursuing alpine sports were key factors in the increase.

Lack of experience was the major factor in the increase in mountain deaths. Many times, basic rules of alpine safety were not followed.

In addition to the 133 deaths, some 1,314 people were injured in the mountains. Above all, they were hurt during ice climbing, canyoning and base jumping.

The 3,500-strong team of mountain rescue workers across Switzerland had their hands full in 2001 putting in more than 12,000 hours of overtime.

Safety tips

Janni said people organising mountain trips should always consult an experienced guide, listen to avalanche bulletins and the weather forecast and keep a map at hand.

"Good preparation for every mountain tour is needed," he told swissinfo. "When a thunderstorm comes and you are still on the mountain you've done something wrong."

He also said mountain trips should not last too long. "You need to listen to your inner voice," he said,adding that if the trip seems too long then it probably is.

When asked if the marked increase in mountain deaths was a trend, Janni said it was too early to say. "We should wait one or two years to see why [these deaths] happen and then we'll be able to tell more," he concluded.

swissinfo with agencies

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