Race against time: Evacuation ordered in Switzerland as rockslide threatens village

Brienz, a scenic Swiss village in front of a lake

The picturesque village is facing evacuation. Photo credit: MilaJac / Wikimedia Commons

THE serene Swiss village of Brienz became the centre of a high-stakes evacuation operation from Tuesday, May 9 as authorities fear an imminent catastrophe caused by an impending rockslide.

Residents were instructed to urgently evacuate their homes by evening on Friday, May 12 evening. The residents have been forced to flee their homes through the evacuation due to the looming threat of a rockfall, of a colossal mass of Alpine rock totalling a staggering two million cubic metres.

At a recent Town Hall meeting where the evacuation was announced, local leaders revealed that geologists have observed a rapid acceleration in local rock movement. The unsettling prognosis suggests that within the next seven to 24 days, up to two million cubic metres of rock material could collapse or slide, endangering lives and properties.

Speaking at the Town Hall meeting, one member of the Crisis Management Board, Christian Gartmann, says there is a 60 per cent chance that the rocks may dislodge in smaller portions, potentially avoiding the village and valley altogether. He added that there is a ten per cent chance of the rockslide hitting the village entirely, which is why evacuation has been called for.

Situated in the picturesque Graubünden region in the heart of Switzerland, Brienz is a historic village known for its unique blend of German and Romansch cultures. It has a population of around 3000 people, who will all be affected by the evacuation.

However, the village has experienced an alarming increase in rock movement over the past two decades, with the landslide now progressing at a rate of approximately one metre per year.

As experts evaluate potential countermeasures, it has been determined that triggering a controlled explosion to induce a rockslide is too hazardous. Erecting a protective wall or mound of sand has also been deemed impractical due to the vast scale that would be required.

While the evacuation proceeds, the community has rallied together, with residents from neighbouring villages offering shelter to those displaced. Regrettably, due to the level of urgency, farm animals from two local farms will remain in the stables for the time being.

The future of Brienz hangs in uncertainty as authorities continue to work to avert disaster.

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