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Big Floods Shake Bern Avalanche Danger Presents

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 14 December 2023
Big Floods Shake Bern Avalanche Danger Presents

Swiss floods worsened further on Wednesday. Lakes Biel and Sarnen burst their banks in places. Lake Greifen exceeded the high water mark and, according to the authorities, Lake Neuchâtel is also likely to burst its banks in places.

By Wednesday afternoon, Bern Buildings Insurance (GVB) had received around 50 claims in connection with the flooding – and the number is rising. On Wednesday afternoon, the GVB put the amount of damage of the Swiss floods at around one million francs.

Lake Sarnen OW flooded the low-lying Ried area in Sachseln OW. According to a Zentralbahn spokesperson, part of the railroad line in the region is also under water due to the flooding. The S-Bahn trains between Giswil and Sarnen were therefore canceled.

Emergency plan activated in Bern

The Bernese authorities activated their emergency plans due to the flooding and ordered the closure of several lakeside paths on Lake Biel and the River Aare in Bern. People affected by the floods were able to obtain sandbags from the fire stations in Nidau and Ligerz. This offer was widely used.

In addition, roads in the Bernese Oberland are still closed due to landslides, and some roads in the Bernese Plateau have also been closed due to flooding.

Lake Biel reached a water level of 430.42 meters above sea level on Wednesday afternoon, around seven centimetres above the high water mark. By the afternoon, the situation had stabilized somewhat. Depending on the weather, the water level could rise further or at least remain very high, the city warned.

The water level in the Aare in Bern remained high on Wednesday. The canton of Solothurn issued a flood alert for sections of the Aare on Wednesday evening. The population was called upon to exercise caution in the vicinity of watercourses. The first measures to prevent flooding along the river at Obergösgen, Gretzenbach and Niedergösgen include the installation of dams.

Arve and Lake Biel most critical

The water level rose continuously on Lake Thun. The same applies to the waters in the canton of Fribourg. In Cheyres FR and Estavayer-le-Lac FR, Lake Neuchâtel is likely to overflow its banks in some places, according to a statement from the Fribourg cantonal police on Wednesday. It advises homeowners in the immediate vicinity of the lake to monitor the situation, move sensitive properties to safety and, if necessary, switch off power installations.

In addition to Lake Biel, which is at high risk (level 4), the flood situation is most critical on the Arve in Geneva, where the risk of flooding is also high, according to the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The danger level for Lake Geneva was raised to level 3 (considerable danger) on Wednesday.

Zurich and Basel also affected

Lake Greifensee has been in considerable danger since Wednesday morning after reaching the alert level. The Sihl and Limmat rivers in the canton of Zurich are also currently carrying a lot of water due to the continuous rain.

The Rhine in Basel had already been closed to ships until Thursday on Tuesday. The Rhine level exceeded the high water mark at the Rheinhalle measuring station on Tuesday afternoon, as can be seen from the water level display on the website of the Swiss Rhine ports.

1000 people in action in Valais

The canton of Valais also issued another flood warning on Wednesday. The Valais authorities had already published a risk report for the entire canton on Tuesday. In addition to flooding and overflowing rivers and streams, landslides and rockfalls were also possible.

Several traffic routes have already been closed. However, the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway resumed operations on Wednesday. This had been suspended on Tuesday due to the risk of falling rocks.

The departments for mobility, national road maintenance, natural hazards, fire department and civil defense are currently deploying around 1,000 people, according to a statement from the canton of Valais.

Avalanche danger

The avalanche danger is also considerable: the second-highest danger level (level 4) has been declared for western Valais up to the St. Gallen Alps. Otherwise, there is a “considerable avalanche danger” (level 3).

Since Sunday, over 50 liters of rain per square meter have fallen in many places, as the weather service Meteonews wrote on Wednesday. The precipitation on the already wet soil and the intensive snowmelt caused the water levels of many bodies of water to rise.

According to various weather services, further precipitation is expected in the coming days, especially on the northern slopes of the Alps. According to FOEN forecasts, the water level is not expected to fall below the high water mark until Friday. More news on the flood can be found here.

©Keystone/SDA

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