One dead and 40 injured as violent storm hits Swiss town
One person has died and around 40 people were taken to hospital after a violent storm hit the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland on July 24. MeteoNews measured wind speeds of up to 217 kilometres per hour, as residents reported seeing tornado-like formations rip off the roofs of houses, damage cars and overturn cranes.
High winds and suspected tornado hit La Chaux-de-Fonds
At around 11.30am on July 24, the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds in Canton Neuchâtel was hit by what has been labelled a “megastorm”. According to MeteoNews, the storm produced heavy rain and extremely high winds of up to 217 kilometres per hour. The border town of Le Locle was also heavily damaged.
One resident told 20 Minuten that a “crazy tornado” had passed through the town, ripping up streets, blowing the roofs off houses and causing major damage to road and rail infrastructure. Meteorologists told the newspaper that they have never seen such a violent rain and wind storm in this part of Switzerland before.
Some Swiss rail services cancelled until August 7
After peaking at midday, several scattered storms continued to roll over the town over the next few hours - though they were not as extreme. Local authorities and AlertSwiss have advised those in the region to exercise caution when going outside, as damaged trees may still fall in the coming days.
Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the main public transport provider, confirmed that all rail lines from the town, barring the route towards Les Bois, have been suspended. They hope to get the lines from La Chaux-de-Fonds to St-Imier, Neuchâtel and Les Ponts-de-Martel up and running by the end of July 25, while the RER line to Le Locle - the most heavily damaged - is expected to return on August 7. Replacement bus services have been arranged.
Thousands of buildings damaged by storm in Neuchâtel
Once the dust had settled, the emergency services confirmed that several thousand buildings had been damaged by the storm, a high-voltage power line supplying the town had fallen down and five buildings had to be evacuated, including the large Métropole Center shopping centre. It is still unclear how much it will cost to repair the damage.
The fire brigade, police and other services in the town were called out 83 times on July 24, while 1.200 emergency calls were made relating to the storm. The authorities in Neuchâtel also received help and material from other regions, most notably Lausanne and Geneva.
One fatality caused by the storm in La Chaux-de-Fonds
Sadly, the police also confirmed that one person had died in the storm, while 40 people were injured to the extent that they had to be taken to hospital and seen by doctors. The man who passed away was sitting in his parked car during the storm, when a large construction crane keeled over, crushing the vehicle.
Speaking to 20 Minuten, the Mayor of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Jean-Daniel Jeanneret, gave his condolences to the family of the victim and to others significantly impacted by the storm. He then praised the "great solidarity of the entire region, which immediately offered their help."
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