‘Once in 30 year snow’ traps holidaymakers in the Alps

‘Once in 30 year snow’ traps holidaymakers in the Alps

An urgent government travel alert was issued for Switzerland yesterday amid reports of thousands of holidaymakers being trapped by heavy snow falls across the Alps.

More than 13,000 tourists were trapped in Zermatt while towns and villages across Switzerland, France and Italy were cut off.

Many roads were closed because of the risk of avalanches as more than 7ft of snow fell in two days.

A British skier – John Bromell, 39, from Willingham by Stow near Lincoln – was reported missing on Sunday at the ski resort of Tignes in France Alps.

The avalanche risk is set at the rarely used maximum on a five-point scale. This is the highest it has been for almost 10 years.

French forecasters have described the snowfall as the kind that are only seen “once in every 30 years”, with up to 6ft of snow falling in 36 hours in parts of the Savoie area.

In the Simplon region of Valais, where Zermatt is located, two metres (6.6ft) of snow fell in a 24-hour period, the Swiss ATS news agency said. Some stranded tourists were airlifted out by helicopter to the nearby village of Tasch but no further flights are planned today.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in an updated travel advisory for Swizterland: “A heavy snowstorm in the canton of Valais has caused the temporary suspension of the main road and rail links to and from the Zermatt area.

“Many ski areas and hiking routes have been temporarily closed while local authorities provide assistance and are clearing access routes.

“For further information, you should contact the local police in Zermatt.

“The local police are expecting a train route to operate to and from Zermatt again on Wednesday 10 January, while road access may take longer to clear. Further power cuts in the area are possible.”

Zermatt Tourism said work was being carried out “with high pressure” to re-open the railway line between the resort and Tasch while track between Tasch and Visp remained closed. Train replacement buses are operating instead.

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