The public remains in lockdown for several hours in the Swiss Alps, as they have been since Friday, as water levels continue to rise, impeding access to mountain trails and man-made lifts in the southern region of canton Valais.
A citizens’ security alert that began Thursday has resulted in the temporary closure of around a dozen tourist sites, including the Bellinzona ski resort in southern Switzerland. At least one mountain lift and dozens of ski runs were unable to operate Thursday. The situation was slightly less serious on Friday, when there were no ill effects on lift operations, but there was still a heavy security presence around some lakes where visitors could swim in the calm waters.
At 3:45 p.m. local time on Friday, the emergency response teams declared the situation as still critical as more water was pouring into the rivers that run through valley. However, temperatures continue to remain in the mid to upper 30s. Some details of the dire conditions remain uncertain at this point.
The measures are being taken in the wake of a series of floods that have plagued Switzerland over the past week. The level of one of the major rivers, the Rhine, is expected to rise further on Thursday, flooding many rivers and streams, including one on the French border.
The Swiss railway company SBB has announced that it is suspending most rail traffic through the Rhine river basin. The rail companies Trenitalia and Glacier Express are halting passenger trains. Passengers heading to more than a dozen tourist spots have been asked to change their plans. Travelers, especially those in central Switzerland, have been advised to avoid the “imminent” area around Lake Geneva.
It’s unclear when the conditions will return to normal. The emergency, announced by the Valais cantonal police on Sunday, was described as an unusual decision by Swiss federal police and the Italian Police in the Lake Maggiore region, where the dangers were intensified in the afternoon.
The flooding has triggered more than 200 flood warnings and more than 1,100 evacuations. Two people are dead, and a number of others have been rescued. “At least 40 buildings” have been damaged by the rising waters, a Swiss Interior Ministry official said in a statement.
Water levels are expected to remain high this weekend. “For the time being, the strong winds are bringing excess water to the nearby Rhine,” state police said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.