Switzerland's Zermatt ski resort cut off due to avalanche risk

GENEVA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Road and rail access to the famed ski and winter resort of Zermatt in southern Switzerland was cut off on Tuesday as the region was facing the maximum level of avalanche risk, authorities said.

Some media reports said some 13,000 tourists were stranded in Zermatt due to the heavy snow and an avalanche risk.

A level 5 avalanche risk -- the highest risk level -- has been declared in parts of canton Valais, where Zermatt is located, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) said.

"Nobody is arriving or leaving Zermatt," Romy Biner-Hauser, president of the municipality, was quoted as saying in a local newspaper, Swissinfo reported.

No houses had been evacuated on Tuesday morning and those in Zermatt are free to move around in the village. However, authorities are monitoring the situation every 30 minutes.

According to the WSL, a mixture of predicted fresh snowfall on top of the old snow that fell in abundance over the Christmas period could lead to "numerous spontaneous avalanches of a large, and often very large, scale."

Ski areas affected include Saas-Fee, the southern slope of the Simplon and the neighbouring valleys from Visp to Zermatt, according to WSL estimates from Monday evening.

The village of Gondo on the Swiss-Italian border is also cut off due to a mudslide on Monday. In 2000, the village was hit by a landslide that killed 13 people.

[ Editor: meng ]


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