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Normality starts to return after floods

The clean-up operation continues

(Keystone)

The situation is stabilising in flood-affected regions, it was reported on Sunday. Religious services have been held in memory of the flood victims.

Meanwhile, the government has said that reinforced flood protection is likely to cost billions of francs over the next few years.

Officials said that despite overnight rainfall, water levels had either receded or remained stable in flood regions such as Thun in the Bernese Oberland and Lucerne in central Switzerland.

Meteorologists said a return to sunny weather could be expected early in the week.

In some areas, clearing-up operations were scaled down or halted on Sunday. In the alpine village of Brienz 300 people attended religious services to commemorate two flood victims.

The death toll from the flooding in Switzerland currently stands at six.

Returning home

People have also continued to return to their homes. In the capital, Bern, the last of the residents of the city's low-lying Matte district have been able to go back to their houses.

They were forcibly evacuated earlier in the week over fears that some of the district's historic buildings could collapse. Water supplies have not yet been restored but officials said that electricity was expected to be up and running by Sunday evening.

In terms of transport, the Gotthard road - the main north-south axis through the Swiss Alps - has reopened. The train service through the tunnel was also running an intermittent service, it was reported.

However, the authorities said that some areas were still underwater or remained cut off from the outside world.

This includes the central tourist resort of Engelberg, which is still only accessible by helicopter.

Officials have also reiterated calls for people to refrain from entering flooded areas as "catastrophe tourists".

Flood prevention

The issue of future flood prevention was raised in several interviews in the Sunday newspapers.

Andreas Götz, vice-director of the Federal Office for Water and Geology, said that flood protection in Switzerland would now be boosted.

This was likely to cost several billion Swiss francs, said Götz in the NZZ am Sonntag, adding that it was not yet clear where the money should be invested.

He said that it would be eight to ten years before a map of the areas most at risk was ready.

Götz said that the authorities had warned the public about the flooding in time, but admitted that the flood-warning alarm system could be improved.

Adequate investment

Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger said in several interviews that the will to carry out prevention was needed and that such measures would require adequate investment.

"With global warming we can expect these types of events," he told Le Matin dimanche newspaper. "It's important that our policy of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions is continued and we reach our fixed goals."

Meanwhile, insurers said flood-damage costs could rise to more than SFr1 billion ($794 million). Agricultural damage could be as much as SFr10 million.

Swiss Solidarity, the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, has received around SFr3 million in donations for flood victims.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

By Sunday more than SFr3 million had been raised for the victims of the flooding.
Swiss Solidarity, 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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