Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Heavy snowfall strands 13000 tourists in Swiss Alps

Heavy snowfall strands 13000 tourists in Swiss Alps

Several other ski resorts across Switzerland, France and Italy are also closed due to the extreme avalanche risk caused by the the highest snowfall the Alps has experienced for nearly 10 years.

Snowy weather and an avalanche risk have stranded some 13,000 tourists in a Swiss resort town at the base of the Matterhorn, according to the Associated Press.

Local officials said no lives were ever in danger and the situation was calm, with cafes open and many streets walkable.

"No one can go skiing or hiking, but it's quiet, a little bit romantic", said Imesch. Elsewhere in the canton of Valais the villages of Gondo and Saas were also cut off after landslides on the roads, while the road between St Luc and Zinal in the Val d'Anniviers was closed on Tuesday morning due to the high avalanche risk.

An official with Air Zermatt told AFP that more than 600 people had been airlifted out by helicopter on Tuesday - at a cost of 200 Swiss francs ($204/170 euros) per passenger - with several hundred more flown out on Wednesday.

Officials said it had been many years since they'd seen such high levels of snowfall, while the avalanche warning was raised to its maximum level after 31.5 inches of snow dropped in Zermatt over 24 hours.

The avalanche risk has been raised to the maximum level of five on the avalanche warning scale, the highest it's been for almost 10 years.

Meanwhile, an aerial search has failed to locate British snowboarder John Bromell, 39, who went missing in the French resort of Tignes on Sunday.

Zermatt spokeswoman Janine Imesch said there was no immediate risk to the thousands of tourists who remained in the resort, and has praised their optimism during the ordeal.

On Monday, an avalanche reportedly hit a five-story building in the Italian resort of Sestrieres.

Swiss media reported that the lower lying villages of Eyholz and Mottec were also evacuated after heavy rain caused severe mudslides.

"Numerous large and, in many cases, very large natural dry avalanches are to be expected as a effect of fresh snow and strong wind", a statement from the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research said.

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