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Water levels drop at most Swiss lakes and rivers

family out a lake
Lake Lucerne on July 18 Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Water levels across Switzerland dropped on Sunday after unrelenting rain brought many lakes and rivers to dangerous highs and burst banks. Unlike Germany and Belgium, where dramatic flooding killed more than 180 people, the Alpine nation suffered no weather-related fatalities this week.

The situation is considered stable but risky in several parts of Switzerland. The highest danger warning (5) remains in place for Lake Lucerne, Lake Thun and Lake Biel although water levels at all three are on the decline.  The River Aare, which cuts across the capital Bern, has also stabilised. 

Lake Neuchatel swelled further on Sunday morning with water levels reaching 430.69 metres. That figure marked a 12-centimetre increase in 24 hours that broke records and puts it well above the flood level. In the western canton of Vaud, Lake Morat hit 430.67 metres. All navigation is forbidden at these two lakes.

basketball court flooded Neuchatel
Water from Lake Neuchatel overflows into a basketball court in the town of Yverdon. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

Meteorologists expect the weather to remain mostly dry across Switzerland and attain summer temperatures in the coming week.  Fears of another “flood of the century” have dissipated although it might take several days for rivers and lakes to return to normal.

Inundations in 2005 claimed seven lives and brought chaos to central Switzerland. There have been no deaths reported by police in this round of bad weather, which also hit central cantons particularly hard.

Financial devastation 

The financial cost of the storms, floods and hailstorms of recent weeks is likely to rival but not surpass those of the 2005 “storm of the century”, according to insurers quoted by the NZZ am Sonntag and Le Matin Dimanche.

The Association of Cantonal Building Insurers has so far reported damages amounting to at least CHF450 million ($490 million) – on track to top the costs caused by heavy rains in 2007, the second-most expensive weather catastrophe after the storm of 2005.

Nuclear sites study

The  association comprises 18 cantonal institutions which insure approximately 1.9 million buildings across the country (roughly 70% of all buildings).

The SonntagsZeitung, meanwhile, surfaced a February study evaluating the risks at five nuclear power plant sites in Switzerland in the event of extreme floodingExternal link of the River Aare. 

Many experts link extreme weather patterns to climate change. While Europe mourns those killed in flooding this week, the United States and Canada are in the grips of a deadly heatwave.

External Content

Flooding in Western Europe has claimed at least 180 lives, according to AFP news agency. The worst affected country is Germany where the death toll reached 156 on Sunday. That figure could rise as rescue work continues.

Belgium’s crisis centre has urged people in the south and east of the country to avoid all travel. The death toll from swollen and burst rivers and flash floods there is 27. Scores of people remain unreachable or missing.

Downstream in the Netherlands, flooding rivers damaged many houses in the southern province of Limburg, where several care homes were evacuated. No fatalities have been reported by Dutch authorities.



Spotting flood risks early saves lives

This content was published on Catastrophic flooding in 1999, 2005 and 2007 led to reforms in water management in Bern. Bernard Wehren, the hydrologist in charge of regulating lake levels, told swissinfo what changes were made and what effect they have had. (SRF/

Read more: Spotting flood risks early saves lives

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR