Helicopters are being used to airlift stranded skiers from the Alpine village
13,000 tourists stranded for two days in the Swiss Alps by heavy snow and an extreme risk of avalanches are being airlifted to safety by local authorities.
100 people an hour were being flown from Zermatt to the nearby village of Täsch – a three minute flight – according to Swiss police.
All ski slopes, hiking paths and cable cars around Zermatt have been closed, and the resort’s website has advised people to stay at home so as not to hamper the rescue operation.
Train services were brought to a halt, and the town was left without power.
The upmarket resort lies in the shadow of the Matterhorn, one of the most famous mountains in the Alps.
— Sara Schmidt (@schmidtlander) January 9, 2018
With the onset of the wintery weather, avalanche danger in the rugged region of Wallis that includes Zermatt near the Italian border is now rated as “very great”, the highest level, according to the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.
Janine Imesch, a spokesperson for the resort, said there was no immediate risk to anyone’s safety and that the precautions were sensible.
“No one can go skiing or hiking, but it’s quiet, a little bit romantic,” Imesch insisted. “Everything is fine. There is no panic,” she told the Guardian
Guests seeking to leave the car-free village at the foot of the Matterhorn were flown to Täsch, about 5km away.
The Swiss federal institute for forest, snow and landscape research, WSL, warned that fresh snow could cause “numerous large and, in many cases, very large natural avalanches”.