Torrential rains wreak havoc

Some 40 animals died in this rescue centre in Schaffhausen although workers risked their lives to save them. Keystone

Insurance companies are facing an influx of claims after unusually heavy rain and hail storms on Thursday left a trail of damage in different parts of Switzerland. A woman was drowned in the northern canton of Aargau on Thursday night.

This content was published on May 3, 2013 - 20:10 and agencies

The fatality occurred in the village of Sulz at about ten o’clock on Thursday evening. A stream which is normally channelled through the village in a pipe had risen so high that it was pouring over the road, and swept away the car in which the woman and her husband were travelling. The couple managed to climb onto the roof and shout for help. The man was saved, but rescuers were unable to reach the woman.

Meteorologists say that in the space of ten minutes 32.8 litres of rain per square metre fell in the northern city of Schaffhausen, the highest amount since automatic measurements started in 1981. Overall, the city received more than half its normal May rainfall.

Firemen freed two workers from a flooded cellar at a pet rescue centre in the city. They had been trapped trying to save the animals and were taken to hospital with hypothermia. About a third of the animals – dogs, cats and a tortoise - were rescued, but the rest drowned.

The city’s fire chief told the Swiss News Agency that he had not seen anything like it in 40 years of service.

A young man in canton Zurich was involved in a spectacular accident when a flooded drain burst just as he was passing over it, shooting the drain cover, and his car, into the air. The car landed back on its side and was a total write-off, while the driver received moderate injuries. He was doubly unlucky: he turned out to be in violation of the law since he was driving unaccompanied on a provisional licence. Police said he could expect to have it withdrawn.

Hailstorms damaged crops in several cantons. The Swiss Hail insurance cooperative said on Friday that it had received about 250 calls, reporting damage worth a total of about CHF1.2 million ($1.3 million).

The worst affected cantons were in the north and east: Schaffhausen, Aargau, Zurich, Thurgau and St Gallen, where numerous cellars, streets and underpasses were flooded, and mudslides triggered.

In western Switzerland in addition to the damage to crops, train services were disrupted in the Lake Geneva area, but the emergency services were not called in.

The total cost of the damage will not be clear until clearing up has been completed. But in canton Zurich alone insurance companies expect to have to pay out about CHF5 million.

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