Swiss mountains light up in a national day celebration to suit COVID-19 era

The mountain chains of Veisivi and Dent de Perroc are illuminated by 100 kg of the magnesium powder to celebrate Swiss National Day following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ferpecle near Evolene in the Val d'Herens, Switzerland July 31, 2020. Louis Dasselborne/Office du Tourisme Evolene/Handout via REUTERS reuters_tickers
This content was published on August 1, 2020 - 10:04

By John Revill and Denis Balibouse

EVOLENE, Switzerland (Reuters) - A section of the Alps turned amber on Friday night in a massive pyrotechnic display as Switzerland marked its national day with an event suited to COVID-19 and social distancing rules.

The mountain chains of Veisivi and Dent de Perroc, which tower nearly 4,000 metres (13,000 feet)in the southern canton of Wallis, saw more than 100 kg (220 lbs) of magnesium powder ignited in the event.

Although Swiss National Day is on Aug. 1, many people celebrate the night before. The date marks the foundation of Switzerland in 1291.

The show, which illuminated 12 square km (4.6 square miles) of the mountains, was visible from 20 km (12 miles) away.

"It is like 100 million candles being lit on the mountains and gives them a lovely warm glow," said organiser Jacques Morard, who runs Jimagine, an events company in Montreux.

"Lots of people around Switzerland normally have fireworks to celebrate our national day, but they weren't able to this year because of distancing regulations."

Gatherings of more than 1,000 people are currently banned to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Thousands of spectators gathered in the Evolene valley below to see the three-minute long display, at a safe distance from each other.

The show followed a similar display in 2015, when magnesium powder was used to turn mountains red for the anniversary of Wallis joining Switzerland, an event also organised by Morard.

Morard, 62, said many events he was organising this year had to be cancelled because of COVID-19.

"As a Swiss person I am very proud to have an idea which works to mark our national day, and bring some joy even in this terrible situation," Morard added.

(Reporting by John Revill and Denis Balibouse; Writing by John Revill; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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