The Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its rescue service. The association has saved thousands of lives since it created a nationwide service for mountain climbers in 1901.This content was published on May 30, 2001 - 13:45
Rescue operations in the Alps first took place in the 1860s, when mountain climbing was becoming a sport in its own right.
At the time, the local authorities refused to come to aid of climbers in distress, and so regional sections of the SAC, which just been founded, decided to take responsibility for rescue operations.
In 1901, the club decided to set up a nationwide network of rescue teams, and within a decade had 49 primary rescue stations.
Today, the number of stations has risen to 102, and they rely on the services of 2,500 lifesavers all over the country, except in canton Valais, which has its own service.
Last year, the SAC's rescue teams intervened 374 times to help over 500 people. Each intervention cost more than SFr1,700 ($950) and required the use of a helicopter in six out of 10 rescue operations.
Most rescues involve sporting accidents in the mountains - trekking, paragliding, on- and off-piste skiing, and canyoning. The club says those involving snowboarders and ice climbers are on the rise.
It adds that only nine per cent of the people it rescues are club members. "These figures show that we are a public service, just like fire departments, ambulances and other similar organisations", says Louis Salzmann, president of the club's rescue commission.
swissinfo with agencies