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Swiss mountain rivers remain unpredictable, expert warns

Published on July 20, 2021

Switzerland has made progress in flood damage prevention, but the risk of high water levels remains real, according to a leading hydrologist.

“The flooding disasters from 1987, 1999 and 2005 have raised awareness [of the risks],” says Andreas Zischg from the University of Bern.

“Considerable financial means were also invested in protection efforts,” he told Swiss public radio, SRF.

Speaking days after many parts of Switzerland found themselves under water, Zischg said the environment ministry had identified the areas where people and buildings were at risk in extreme weather conditions. About 19,000 buildings, including 8,500 residential homes for 60,000 people, would be affected by adverse weather.

He added that rising water levels following heavy thunderstorms in mountain regions remained unpredictable.

The city of Lucerne has re-opened its bridges across the River Reuss, while shipping on the Rhine has resumed in Basel.

Water levels

Water levels continue to drop in Swiss lakes and rivers, and emergency services have begun to dismantle parts of the water defence infrastructure.

Experts have warned that it might take several weeks before the water recedes to normal levels.

Last week’s floods caused huge damage, particularly along rivers and lakes in several parts of Switzerland, but there are no reports of deaths – unlike the situation in neighbouring Germany and other European countries.