At least 13000 people, mostly tourists, have been stranded in the Swiss Alps, as heavy snow falls and avalanches cut off the Zermatt resort from the rest of the world. The main road has been closed yesterday and railroad traffic was also stopped today. The ski runs, lifts, and walking paths were also closed authorities have started evacuating people by helicopters.
The resort said on its website that ski slopes, hiking paths and cable cars around the village remained closed. It advised people to follow instructions and stay at home so as not to hamper the ongoing clean-up operation.
Despite the fact that they are stranded, the tourists in Zermatt are reported to be in good spirits and the tourist office describes the atmosphere as “relaxed and comfortable”, The Guardian reports.
“Power has returned, there’s still the chance that it could go out, but at this time things look good. People are enjoying the snow, going shopping, eating and drinking. No one can go skiing or hiking, but it’s quiet,” a tourist office spokeswoman Janine Imesch said.
Helicopters flew for about two hours on Tuesday afternoon, she said. The Zermatt police department official said the air bridge would be provided to tourists requesting an exit by the 3-minute helicopter flight from the town at the foot of the Alpine peak down to the nearby village of Taesch.
The Swiss official, who spoke to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said Tuesday that about 100 people could be evacuated per hour, conditions permitting
In the town of Visp, about 30 kilometers down the valley from the Swiss resort, 20 people were evacuated from their homes after a mud- and snowslide sent debris into a portion of the village, Swiss broadcaster SRG reported on Tuesday. Nobody was injured.
More than a meter of snow fell in parts on Monday alone. On Tuesday, a meter more is forecast. The avalanche risk is set at the rarely used maximum on a five-point scale. This is the highest it has been for almost 10 years, BBC reports.
The weather has caused problems in the rest of European winter resorts. An avalanche hit a five-story building in Sestrieres, in the Italian Alps, late on Monday, but the 29 people staying in the building escaped without injury, fleeing through the garage.
French forecasters have described the snowfall as the kind that is only seen once in every 30 years, with up to 1.8m of snow falling in 36 hours in parts of the Savoie area.
The first downhill training run for the men’s World Cup in Wengen in the Bern canton was canceled on Tuesday. Organisers said snow and high winds had caused significant damage to infrastructure on the course.