Huge rockslide misses Swiss town of Brienz by hair's breadth

Huge rockslide misses Swiss town of Brienz by hair's breadth

The town of Brienz / Brinzauls has had a lucky escape after a massive rockslide occurred on the outskirts of the small Swiss town on the evening of June 15. Up to 1,9 million tons of rock is currently on the move down towards the town, with the biggest and most recent slide to date missing Brienz by a “hair’s breadth.”

Town of Brienz in Switzerland has close call

At 11pm on June 15, live streams set up by the Swiss media in Brienz, Canton Graubünden, began to record loud and sustained activity from the nearby mountain. Daylight soon revealed that a huge mass of rock had slid down from the mountain towards the town, enveloping everything in its path.

With geologists predicting that up to 1,9 million tons of rock - formed as part of what authorities called an Insel (island) - would fall on the town at some point, locals were told to prepare to evacuate Brienz in April, before a heightened risk level forced all residents to leave in May.

Rockslide misses town by a hair

“According to initial findings, a large part of the Insel collapsed very quickly”, Brienz authorities told 20 Minuten. For now, it is unclear how much of the mountainside has moved, although visual evidence suggests “a clear modification of the surface of the slope and suggests that the event affected a large part of Insel.”

Luckily, local officials announced that the massive landslide “missed the village by a hair’s breadth” and no one was hurt. In terms of damage, a small hut on the outskirts of Brienz was completely enveloped by the slide, while a wall in front of the local school has been touched but not broken. “There is no indication of damage in the village. The rock masses stopped just before,” officials concluded.

So, can the residents of Brienz go home now?

Questions still remain regarding whether the 84 permanent residents of Brienz, and those who have bought property or farm there, will now be able to return permanently. The emergency services confirmed that they would be using a helicopter to analyse the area to determine whether more rockslides are to come in the future and whether locals can return to their homes. 

At a press conference at 2.30pm on June 16, authorities revealed that 2 million tons worth of rock had fallen into the valley overnight. While the threat of a new rockslide has subsided for now, and authorities have promised that Brienz will be inhabitable in the future, the situation remains precarious and it will be several days before a decision on repopulation is made. "We were lucky," concluded Andreas Huwiler from the local Office for Forest and Natural Hazards.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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