Extreme Avalanche Risk Leaves Thousands of Tourists Stranded in Ski Resort Town

A view on a dumped snow from the roads in a river in Zermatt Switzerland 09 January 2018

A train packed with tourists has begun the descent from a snowbound town near Switzerland's Matterhorn as railway service resumed following a almost two-day suspension due to avalanche risks.

Relief trains have started to reach thousands of tourists stranded by snow and avalanches in the Swiss Alps.

Road and rail access to the famed ski and winter resort of Zermatt in southern Switzerland was cut off on Tuesday as the region was facing the maximum level of avalanche risk, authorities said.

By Tuesday morning Swiss media said the village was now suffering electricity black-outs, and that some 13,000 tourists were stranded in the ski resort, unable to leave. Dominic Steinmann, Keystone, via AP A sign on a road barrier warns that the road is closed because of a possible avalanche on January 9, 2018. Fortunately, the 29 people staying there were able to escape without injury by fleeing through the garage. The rest were "enjoying the snow, going shopping, eating, and drinking", says the spokesperson.

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At lower altitudes, heavy rains have meanwhile forced the evacuation of around 20 people from the tiny village of Eyholz, and the hamlet of Mottec was also emptied as a precaution, the RTS broadcaster reported.

The Foreign Office has tweeted the following warning: "Heavy snowstorm in the canton of Valais has caused the temporary suspension of the main road and rail links to and from the Zermatt area". In the Italian Alps, up to 10,000 tourists and locals were cut off by avalanches and deep snow.

French forecasters have described the snowfall as the kind that is only seen once in every 30 years, with up to 1.8m of snow falling in 36 hours in parts of the Savoie area. He had been skiing with his family but went for a last run on his own, despite worsening weather, and failed to return.

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