Eight Missing After Landslide In Swiss Alps, Say Police

Eight people, including German, Austrian and Swiss citizens, are missing following a landslide that forced the evacuation of a village in the Swiss Alps, police have said.

“In the region of Val Bondasca, eight people who were there at the time of the landslide have not been found,” the Graubünden cantonal police said.

The landslide on Wednesday morning sent an estimated 4m cubic metres of mud, rocks and dirt flooding into the village of Bondo near the Italian border. About 100 people were evacuated, some airlifted out with helicopters.

Six of the eight were reported missing by their relatives, police said, adding that the search had intensified overnight, with a Swiss army helicopter taking part.

“The missing persons are nationals from Germany, Austria and Switzerland,” the police said.

Another group of five to six people were reported missing after going on a hike in the nearby Val Bregaglia valley, but were later located in Italy, a Grisons police spokeswoman said.

Amateur film footage shows large amounts of debris coming loose near the top of Piz Cengalo, a granite peak that towers 3,369 metres above Val Bondasca, and thundering into the valley below.

Images taken after the landslide showed a broad swath of farmland covered in a grey, moving mass, with mud partially engulfing some buildings.

Police said 12 farm buildings, including barns and stables, had been destroyed by the flow of debris.

The landslide’s force registered a magnitude of 3 on the Richter scale, police Lieutenant Andrea Mittner said, equivalent to a small earthquake that can be felt by people and might shake indoor objects.

“You can imagine just what a mass had to come down to cause an earthquake scenario,” he said.

Further loss of life was prevented thanks to an automated warning system that was installed in Bondo after another large landslide in 2012. After registering movement on the Piz Cengalo mountain, the system alerted emergency services and automatically closed off roads in the village.

The approximately 200 villagers who live in Bondo have been told they will not be allowed to return to their homes before 10am on Friday as authorities could not rule out further landslides.