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Swiss endure coldest night of the winter

The snow machines are out in force

(Keystone)

The freeze gripping Europe has pushed temperatures in parts of Switzerland down to Siberian levels, and left some communities short of water.

Thursday night was the coldest yet this winter: in La Brévine, known as the "Siberia of Switzerland", the quicksilver dropped to –35 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures below -30 were also recorded in parts of canton Graubünden, such as Samedan and Buffalora.

But more unusual, according to the Swiss weather service, were the icy temperatures at lower altitudes. Thermometers in places like Grenchen in canton Solothurn and Aigle in Vaud dropped below –17.

Despite plenty of snow, the freezing air has exacerbated the dry conditions, leaving some smaller lakes virtually empty. Some farmers in La Brévine have had to buy water for their livestock because the reservoirs have run dry.

Normally, these farmers use hydrants to provide water for their animals but so acute is the shortage that from January 2, they will have to buy water from other areas.

Water levels

Levels in rivers and larger lakes, such as Constance on the German border, are also very low, although they have not sunk to the point where the authorities are sounding the alarm.

As yet the freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls have not caused major problems, although weather experts are warning of increasing severe road conditions. Several accidents have been reported on icy roads and one death was recorded on Wednesday night in canton Neuchâtel.

On Thursday night, the air rescue service in the southern canton of Ticino had to mount a rescue operation lasting several hours after 24 young men from Zurich and Basel became trapped during a hike in the mountains above Ascona. All were eventually flown out by helicopter.

Across Europe, freezing temperatures and heavy snow have led to chaotic conditions. Two deaths were reported in France on Thursday night, and several airports across the continent have cancelled or delayed flights.

In Switzerland, a gradual warming is predicted over the weekend, although weather experts are warning of strong winds and heavy snowfall on Friday night. By Saturday, the snow is expected to turn into rain at lower altitudes.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In many parts of Switzerland, temperatures dropped below –30 degrees Celsius.
The freezing air has exacerbated dry conditions, leaving some reservoirs virtually empty.
A gradual warming is predicted for the weekend, but strong winds and heavy snowfall are expected on Friday night.

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