Switzerland: Three people missing after once-in-30-year rains cause floods and landslides

22 June 2024, 17:32 | Updated: 22 June 2024, 22:08

A rescue operation has been launched to find three people missing after a landslide in Switzerland, caused by the sort of rainfall seen once every 30 years, officials have said.

A woman was pulled out alive after being buried by the landslide in the Alpine valley of Misox in the canton of Graubunden, caused by massive thunderstorms and rainfall in the southeast of the country.

Rescuers searched all through Saturday with excavators and specially trained search dogs after the rockslide hit houses in the municipality of Lostallo.

Helicopters and drones have also been used in the search.

William Kloter, from the Swiss police, who is heading the rescue, said they are hoping to find the missing trio alive, who could have been in their homes when the flooding hit.

Almost five inches (12cm) of rain fell in the valley on Friday, with around half that amount coming down in just one hour, MeteoSchweiz, the government's office for weather and climate, said.

A spokesman for the agency said: "It was not the level of rain, but the concentration of rain in such a short period of time which caused the problems. This concentration of rain happens only once every 30 years."

Rivers burst their banks, leaving roads, fields and villages covered with rubble, earth and wood.

Three houses and three cars were swept away by water in the village of Sorte, Grisons police said.

Two police officers escaped from their vehicle which was submerged up to its roof.

Four people were initially reported missing, although a woman was later found under rubble and taken to hospital in nearby Lugano.

Police urged people not to travel to the region as many roads were closed. Five villages were without electricity.

More than 200 people have been moved out of the western canton of Valais since Friday after heavy rainfall caused flooding and mudslides.

The popular ski resort of Zermatt in Valais, near the famous Matterhorn mountain, has been cut off after heavy rains and melting snow caused the nearby Matter Vispa River to overflow.

Dramatic videos showed the otherwise small river that flows through Zermatt turning into a muddy flash flood, partially submerging streets.

There are no rail services to and from the tourist destination after the Matterhorn-Gotthard Railway halted operations on Saturday morning but police said they hoped to reopen the routes in the evening.

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Emergency services in the canton of Valais were on high alert over the levels of the Rhone River, which reached its peak on Saturday.

Residents have been warned to keep out of the lower parts of their houses, including cellars, and not to get close to swelling rivers or park on bridges.

People were also advised against filming or photographing the floods due to safety reasons.

Swiss President Viola Amherd said she was shocked by the scale of the damage caused by the severe weather.

Ms Amherd said on X: "My thoughts are with those affected. I thank the emergency personnel for their tireless efforts in this difficult situation."