Europe

Switzerland landslide: At least eight missing in Val Bondasca

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Media captionScene of landslide in Bondo, Switzerland, near the Italian border

Eight people are still missing after a landslide in an alpine valley in south-eastern Switzerland, police say.

The incident in a remote valley popular with hikers and climbers forced the evacuation of a village in the Val Bondasca region, officials said.

German, Austrian and Swiss citizens are among those missing, Graub├╝nden cantonal police said in a statement.

Six others initially reported missing were later found safe across the border in Italy, AFP news agency reports.

A rescue operation is under way with army helicopters circling above equipped with infrared cameras and technology to detect mobile phone signals.

On the ground, some 120 rescuers with dogs are searching for survivors of Wednesday's massive landslide.

"Six people have been found in Italy," local police told AFP, adding: "There are still eight people whose whereabouts remain unknown."

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Image caption Roads were buried in mud and rock in the Swiss village of Bondo
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Image caption The main road between Stampa and Castasegna was blocked at Bondo

Early on Wednesday, millions of cubic metres of rock and mud flowed down into the Bondasca valley, stopping just feet from the tiny village of Bondo.

The slide area is over 5km (3 miles) long and is "tens of metres" high in places, police said.

About 100 local residents were immediately evacuated, with rescue workers initially reporting that everyone was safe.

Pictures from the scene show rocks and debris scattered across roads and properties surrounded by mud flows.

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Image caption Mud and rocks were pushed right up the edges of homes
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Image caption Rescuers used helicopters to evacuate hikers stranded in the mountains

The landslide happened at about 09:30 local time (07:30 GMT) on Wednesday when four million cubic metres of mud and rock cascaded down the side of the Piz Cengalo mountain, the authorities said.

The village of Bondo near the Italian border, which narrowly escaped being hit by the landslide, has been completely evacuated, and will remain closed until at least Friday.

Residents fled after alarms sounded in the village, and hikers staying in mountain huts were airlifted to safety.

Several farm buildings were destroyed.

Geologists have warned that further landslides in the remote area cannot be ruled out.

The Graub├╝nden region of Switzerland is known to be at risk of landslides when water overflows from the high alpine lakes.

Warning sirens alert local residents and some communities have constructed barriers. But Wednesday's landslide, the biggest in decades according to police, took Bondo by surprise.

The alarm system in Bondo was installed after a huge landslide on the slopes of Piz Cengalo in 2012 which crashed into an uninhabited valley.

In 2014 a mudslide in Davesco-Soragno in the southern Canton of Ticino swept into a block of flats, killing two people and injuring four others.

In 2000, 13 people died when a landslide struck villages in the canton of Valais.

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