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20 years on: Deadly mudslide remembered

Two decades ago, 13 people lost their lives when the tiny village of Gondo on the Swiss-Italian border was sliced in two by a 40-metre-wide swathe of mud and rocks loosened by three days of torrential rain.

This content was published on October 14, 2020 - 15:21

The landslide swept away ten houses, the school, shops and the road. It also reduced most of the historic Stockalper Tower to rubble, leaving only the very oldest part of the building standing. The mayor of the village, who lost two of his brothers, made a desperate appeal for help on the local radio station.

Gondo was hardest hit, but other villages in upper Valais were also cut off, houses were swept away and people died. The catastrophe unleashed an outpouring of solidarity in Switzerland. The humanitarian charity Swiss Solidarity raised CHF74 million ($81 million) to help victims of the storms in Valais and Ticino. A third of the funds went to Gondo and Baltschieder in Valais, which were most affected.

In addition to rescue and clean-up work, the villages also received help with reconstruction. According to Swiss public television SRF, even today, not all of the structures needed to protect them against future natural catastrophes are in place.

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