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Switzerland digs itself out after storm

Residents of St Gallen dig out their cars Keystone

Life slowly returned to normal late on Sunday after two days of stormy winter weather brought much of the country to a standstill.

This content was published on March 5, 2006 - 18:20

High winds followed by record snowfall closed roads, rail lines and airports, and cut off alpine villages. At least three people died.

As much as 60 centimetres of fresh snow fell within a 24-hour period in many parts of northern Switzerland, breaking all previous records.

The snow shut down public transport services in Basel and Zurich over the weekend, as well as the EuroAirport outside of Basel, which reopened late on Sunday afternoon.

Dozens of flights were cancelled at Zurich airport and passengers experienced average delays of two hours.

Numerous road accidents and hundreds of stalled vehicles backed up traffic on Swiss motorways for hours early on Sunday, forcing the authorities to set up emergency shelters for more than a hundred people who had to abandon their cars. There was one road fatality.

Dozens of other roads across the country were blocked by fallen trees and branches which broke under the weight of the snow.

The Swiss Federal Railways reported several delays, and the closure of some services on mountain routes.

Avalanche risk

Less snow fell in the Alps but the authorities in canton Valais had to close many mountain roads due to the high risk of avalanches.

Residents of one village on Lake Geneva were evacuated due to the avalanche danger.

A woman was killed by an avalanche while snowshoeing in the mountains above the resort of Les Diablerets in western Switzerland. She became the 17th avalanche victim in the Swiss Alps this winter.

The police advised residents only to use their cars for emergencies, and to avoid entering forests because of the danger of falling trees.

On Friday evening, a young woman was killed in Fribourg when scaffolding on a building was blown to the ground, striking her dead. Winds gusted up to 100kmh.

Changeable weather is forecast for Monday and Tuesday, with isolated snow flurries.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Heavy snowfall between Saturday and Sunday broke all records, with up to 60cm fresh snow in some urban areas.
The risk of avalanches was considered "high" in most parts of the Swiss Alps, and "very high" in parts of canton Valais.
EuroAirport outside Basel was closed for about 24 hours.

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