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Winter's return wreaks havoc in Switzerland

People have been advised to avoid using their cars Keystone

Two days of stormy winter weather have brought much of Switzerland to a standstill.

This content was published on March 5, 2006 - 11:32

High winds followed by record snowfall has closed roads and rail lines, led to flight cancellations and cut off alpine villages. At least two people have died.

According to the Swiss weather service, MeteoSwiss, as much as 60 centimetres of fresh snow fell within a 24-hour period in some urban areas in eastern Switzerland, breaking all previous records.

Numerous accidents causing one death and countless stalled vehicles backed up traffic on Swiss motorways for hours forcing the authorities to set up emergency shelters for hundreds of people who had to abandon their cars.

Fallen trees were partly responsible for blocking dozens of other roads across the country.

Trams and buses were no longer running on Sunday morning in Zurich or Basel. Zurich airport reported 72 cancelled flights on Saturday and average delays of two hours.

Airport closed

EuroAirport outside Basel has been closed to all air traffic since Saturday afternoon. Geneva airport has not reported any delays or cancellations because of the storm.

Less snow fell in the mountains but the authorities in canton Valais have closed many mountain roads, cutting off villages, due to the high risk of avalanches.

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

Avalanches have already killed 16 people this winter in Switzerland.

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

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.

The weather is expected to improve by Sunday afternoon, but isolated snow flurries are expected again on Monday and Tuesday.

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 is considered "high" in most parts of the Swiss Alps, and "very high" in parts of canton Valais.
EuroAirport outside Basel has been closed since Saturday afternoon.

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