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One dead and highest alert level for avalanche risk in Switzerland

snow-blocked road
Many places in Switzerland are cut off, including Disentis. © KEYSTONE / Gian Ehrenzeller

The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) has declared large swathes of eastern Switzerland, including the popular ski resort of Davos, at maximum risk of avalanches. 

On Monday, two workers trying to set up explosives for a controlled avalanche in canton Valais were hit by a natural one. One died, the other was able to dig himself out. Two skiers in Valais were also swept off piste but were able to free themselves from the snow. Another skier in canton Fribourg was injured after being buried three metres deep.

Earlier on Monday, WSL had given its highest avalanche risk rating of “level 5”External link for important winter tourism areas like Davos, Klosters, Grindelwald, Engelberg, Andermatt and Disentis. Areas above 1,800m were cited as being at very high risk of “large or extremely large” natural avalanches due to the unstable snow pack. 

“They can reach the valleys. Exposed buildings and transportation routes are endangered,” WSL warned.

Last Thursday a 300 metre-wide avalanche swept down the Schwägalp in canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes in northeastern Switzerland burying over 25 vehicles in a car park and crashing into a restaurant. Three people were injured. 

Earlier this month, two people were killed and one injured in separate avalanches in ski regions. 

Already, some regions like the village of Disentis, in canton Graubünden are no longer accessible by train or road due to an avalanche. Several Rhaetian Railway (RhB) lines are interrupted in the canton due to snow. 

Other railway lines affected include the one between Chur and Arosa, or between Klosters Platz and Davos Platz. The Albula line is also interrupted between Bever and Spinas.


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