NATURAL EVENTS

Huge landslide looms over Brienz, triggers immediate evacuation of Swiss village

The inhabitants of the small Swiss town of Brienz have been told to pack their bags and leave immediately. 

The reason? Two million cubic metres of rock from the mountain above them will break loose and crash into the valley in the next few days. The evacuation order did not come as a complete surprise to the remaining population of about 70 villagers.

Brienz, in the eastern canton of Graubünden, has long been considered a geological risk. The village itself is built on land that slopes down into the valley, causing the church tower to tilt and large cracks to appear in the buildings.

photo Ansa
We are in Brienz, Switzerland
Residents of the small Swiss village of Brienz have been told to pack up and leave immediately. The reason: two million cubic meters of rock from the mountain above them will break loose and crash into the valley in the coming days.
photo Ansa
Geological risk
Brienz in the eastern canton of Graubünden has long been considered a geological risk. Work was underway to try to stabilise it and there were signs that the slide might slow down. In the meantime, however, the mountainside above Brienz is crumbling. The villagers had almost got used to large boulders ending up in their gardens.
photo Ansa
Evacuation order
However, geologists have warned that the rock movement is accelerating. Part of the rock face is now sliding at a rate of 32 meters per year. Authorities had warned about a possible evacuation by the end of summer, and a regular meeting was scheduled later this week to update everyone. Instead, after the latest risk assessments showed that a landslide was imminent, the evacuation order came out of the blue.
photo Ansa
Alternative accommodations offered
From now on, no one who is not a resident can enter the village, and then all residents will have to leave their homes by Friday. Most have been offered accommodation in neighboring villages, such as the resort of Lenzerheide, which has plenty of space since the ski season is over and summer has not yet begun, but it is not a permanent solution and it is not easy.
photo wikipedia
Some questions arise
Many now wonder why a village should suffer such a fate in Switzerland, where building regulations are strict and risk assessment is an ongoing process. But the Alpine regions of Switzerland are particularly sensitive to global warming. As the glaciers shrink and the permafrost in the high mountains begins to melt, the rock becomes unstable. In 2006, huge blocks of rock fell from the famous Swiss Eiger, causing hiking trails to close and prompting geologists to warn that such events could be happening more often. In 2017, a massive landslide hit the village of Bondo, also in Graubünden, burying half the village and killing eight people.
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