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Tumbling mountains High-tech protection from rockslides

In times of climate change and melting permafrost, modern surveillance systems are a matter of life and death. Researchers are developing new warning systems to give mountain residents more time to evacuate when the rocks start tumbling. (SRF/

In August 2017, eight people went missing, believed to have been buried under 4 million cubic metres of debris. The landslide in Bondo, close to the Swiss-Italian border, was one of the largest to hit Switzerland in the last century. On September 16, a further landslide occurred though nobody was hurt. Officials had already warned that a rock mass of between 200,000 and 500,000 metres squared was on the move. As nobody was in the danger zone increased safety measures were not needed.

In a different part of the country earlier in September, the bulk of the ice tongue of the Trift glacier in canton Valais collapsed. More than 200 people were evacuated from their homes in Saas-Grund. About a third of the unstable ice masses are still expected to crash down.

With increasing permafrost melting due to climate change, mountain regions are facing increasing rockslides. Now researchers in Zurich are developing new warning systems to give people who live in the affected areas as much warning as possible. Swiss public television, SRF visited the danger zone in the Matter valley to find out what is being done.

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