Mudslide tragedy could not have been predicted

Three people were killed in the mudslide as they crossed the stream Keystone

Heavy rain is being blamed for a mudslide that killed three people above the Swiss resort of Grindelwald on Sunday. Local officials say nothing could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

This content was published on August 7, 2000 - 17:58

The mudslide hit five people as they were crossing a stream in a normally safe area above Grindelwald. Two managed to escape unharmed, but the other three - two Americans and a Swiss guide - were swept downstream. Their bodies were later recovered.

The head of the Grindelwald rescue services, Kurt Ammacher, said the slide was triggered after an overhang, soaked by recent rains, broke free above the group and swept down the mountainside.

"I've been here for more than 30 years and nothing like it has happened in the entire region." He added that thousands of people use the same route in absolute safety each year.

The mayor of Grindelwald, Godi Bohren, told swissinfo the tragedy was a freak accident, which could not have been forseen. "It had been raining hard for a long time, and it was impossible to predict that something like this would happen."

The community of Grindelwald is responsible for safety on local walking paths, but Bohren said they are not checked in the summer. "In winter we have a strict regime to ensure the paths are safe. This is chiefly because of the danger of avalanches. If there is a problem in summer, we are usually informed by walkers or local residents."

Bohren said the incident would be investigated as a matter of course. But he said the only way to prevent such accidents would be to close all walking paths in Switzerland whenever it rains.

The guide who died has now been identified as a former member of the Swiss national skiing team, Albert Schlunegger. The American victims have not been identified.

Switzerland has been hit for the past month by unseasonal heavy rains which have caused other mudslides and flooding, particularly in eastern areas.

swissinfo with agencies

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