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Schwägalp Avalanche forces its way into Swiss hotel, people injured

Snow piled in front of the hotel Säntis

Snow from the avalanche in front of the hotel Säntis at Schwägalp in canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes

(Keystone)

An avalanche in northeastern Switzerland crashed into a hotel restaurant on Thursday evening injuring three people. No hotel guests or skiers were reported missing but rescuers are continuing search operations on Friday. 

At 4.30pm on Thursday, a 300 metre-wide avalanche crashed down the Schwägalp in canton Appenzell Outer Rhodes, according to the Swiss News Agency. It buried more than 25 vehicles on a car park and forced its way into the Hotel Säntisexternal link. The cantonal policeexternal link said no hotel guests or skiers or hikers were reported missing, but three hotel guests received minor injuries and had to be taken to hospital. 

The following tweet by the Tagblatt says: "After the heavy snowfall, on Thursday an avalanche came down in the Schwägalp area".

Around 75 holidaymakers were taken down the valley by bus, while 30 remained in Schwägalp for the night, together with a dozen resort staff, outside the avalanche danger zone. They were being evacuated on Friday.

Search and rescue operations were suspended on Thursday evening due to the dangerous conditions and heavy snowfall but resumed on Friday morning. 

The small resort of Schwägalp is located at 1,300 metres, near Urnäsch, just below the Säntis mountain.

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A hotel guest told the Tagblatt newspaper he had looked outside and saw snow swirling all around. He initially thought a load of snow had fallen off the roof. “Then there was a massive noise and a load of snow came in the back of the restaurant.” 

Eastern Switzerland and canton Graubünden have witnessed heavy snowfall in recent days, with 50-90 centimetres of fresh snow falling in the past 72 hours, according to SRF Meteo.

Over the past few days, one metre of fresh snow has fallen in the Säntis region.

The road to Schwägalp is again open to traffic. But the access road to the Säntis cable car, the Säntis Hotel and the avalanche area remains closed to all traffic.

Safe in the mountains What’s the real risk from avalanches?

After an avalanche entered a hotel, what are the risks in Switzerland and how are such hazards monitored?


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