One of the people rescued from an avalanche at the Swiss ski resort of Crans-Montana died in the hospital overnight. Three other people were injured by the huge avalanche that struck on Tuesday. Rescuers suspended a coordinated search on Wednesday morning.
The man who died was a 34-year-old French national who worked at a ski resort in France, police said.
Rescuers worked all night above the resort in canton Valais to try to find skiers who might have been trapped in the avalanche. Witnesses had told police that there could be more people under the snow.
On Tuesday, a huge avalanche swept down the mountain at an altitude of 2,500 metres, just below the Plaine-Morte Glacier, and hit the popular Kandahar ski slope at 2.20pm at a spot known as “Passage du Major”.
This video by Swiss public radio, RTS, shows the extent of the avalanche. The police said it measured over 840 metres long and 100 metres wide and spread over the slope for about 400 metres.
This first part of this video has been filmed by one of the skiers on the piste when the avalanche produced.
The operation of the Säntis suspension railway (Säntisbahn), from the Schwägalp to the Säntis, will be closed during the next months. The reason for this is the damage to the structure of the first ropeway support, which was affected by an avalanche.
For safety reasons, the operation of the Säntis suspension railway will be suspended until further notice. Neither guests nor employees are transported by the suspension railway. the reason for this is the damage in the lower part of the cable car support. Due to an avalanche decline in the period of Sunday, January 13 and Monday, January 14, the avalanche protection of the prop and the structural construction were affected.
It cannot be said yet how big the damage to the support and the construction is. One must, however, assume that the damage is substantial, and the repair work could take months. In the worst-case scenario, the support will even have to be completely replaced. A project team of experts is currently evaluating the damage and will plan how to proceed with the risk accessed correctly.
The recent avalanche occurred at the time when the rescue and clearing work of the previous avalanche of 10 January was discontinued on Schwägalp and the access of the whole area was locked for all people. The reason for the interruption of this work was the heavy snowfall associated with the increased avalanche danger. Like the renewed event showed, the risk was correctly assessed by the professionals. Between the first avalanche event and the one that damaged the prop there was a snowfall of 1.5 meters of fresh snow. This strong snowfall, in combination with high wind in the peaks may have led to a renewed avalanche.
This new avalanche had less snow mass displaced than the first avalanche event. Accordingly, the snow also did not penetrate to the Schwägalp, but came to standstill before.
Due to this recent event, it is assumed that the suspension railway operation Säntis will stop for months. For the employees of the Säntis, the decision of the suspension railway has no consequences, neither financially nor with respect to their employment.
What this means for the current renovation work of the summit restaurant on the Säntis cannot be assessed at this moment. The economic effects cannot be estimated yet. However, the most important thing is to give guests and employees the highest level of safety and security.
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