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Swiss avalanche measures judged adequate

Switzerland's avalanche protection measures are adequate, an official study on last winter's record snowfall has concluded. However, the study highlighted weaknesses in the early warning system and crisis management.

This content was published on January 11, 2000 - 12:06

Switzerland's avalanche protection measures are adequate, an official study on last winter's record snowfall has concluded. However, the study highlighted weaknesses in the early warning system and crisis management.

The study also said the widespread damage to forests done by hurricane Lothar last month will not increase the avalanche risk as long as this winter does not see more record snowfalls.

The study was conducted at the government's request by the federal snow and avalanche research institute in Davos. It said however that there were some weak links in the system. It concluded that local authorities had no or only unsatisfactory maps of danger zones. It recommends they draw up such documents and use them in planning immediately.

The report also recommends a review of measures which were in place when last winter's avalanches hit areas outside known danger zones.

One of the prime concerns is to close any safety loopholes affecting road and rail connections. The snow and avalanche research institute said it would publish more regional avalanche forecasts to help the authorities take early decisions on evacuations or closing roads.

The study highlights that forests are the cheapest and most effective form of avalanche protection. It points out that despite the record snowfall last February and March, no avalanches were started in forested areas.

Hurricane Lothar, which swept through Switzerland in late December, severely damaged some forest barriers, but the authorities in the report say that this does not increase the danger of avalanches, as long as there are not record snowfalls again this winter. It warns, however, that the destruction may increase rock and landslides.

The report concludes that the SFr1 billion spent on avalanche protection measures since the 1950s have been well spent.

From staff and wire reports.

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