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Oberland villages on flood alert

A number of villages in the Bernese Oberland were put on flood alert on Friday, as a glacier lake threatened to burst its banks.

This content was published on May 22, 2009 - 21:18

The lake, near the resort of Grindelwald, has been under observation for some time, as it filled with water from snow melt. On Friday morning it reached a new record level.

Geologists recently found hidden pockets of water imprisoned beneath the glacier ice, after its normal outlet had been blocked by a build-up of debris. There is therefore even more water than usual in the lake at this time.

Experts believe that part of the nearby Stieregg moraine is about to slide into the lake. Cracks have been visible in it since Monday as it became saturated with water from the lake and from melting snow.

If a large part falls all at once, this is likely to cause the lake to burst its banks and flood the Lütschine river which flows into Lake Brienz. Part of the moraine fell into the lake on May 13, but not enough to trigger a flood.

People in villages downstream of Grindelwald have been warned to stay away from the river, and to tune into the local radio for instructions from the authorities. The A8 motorway which bypasses the town of Interlaken has been closed as a precaution.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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