San Bernardino Pass shut down following fatal flooding and landslides

San Bernardino Pass shut down following fatal flooding and landslides

One person has died and two remain missing after a major landslide in the Misox Valley (Valle Mesolcina) of Canton Graubünden, Swiss police have confirmed. It follows heavy rain and flooding across the mountains over the weekend, culminating in multiple landslides which also destroyed part of one of Switzerland’s major motorways.

One dead and two missing following landslides in Misox valley

According to the emergency services, heavy rainstorms on Friday and early Saturday sparked major flooding and landslides in the Swiss Alps. The worst damage was recorded in the Misox Valley in the southern tip of Graubünden, where 125 millimetres of rain fell in just 24 hours - typically, the region only sees 154 millimetres of rain during the entire month of June.

In Lostallo, a four-metre-high wave of rubble fell on the town, burying several houses. On Sunday, police confirmed that one person had been found dead in the river after the landslide, while two other people remain missing. Graubünden police spokesperson William Kloter said that while the search is ongoing, "The probability of finding them alive is low."

Sudden heavy rain caught locals by surprise

It was explained that because of the sudden rainfall, streams quickly overflowed and rubble and other debris began washing towards local areas, catching many by surprise. The emergency services reported that 20 kilometres of the valley were affected by the landslides, with damage estimated to be in the millions of francs. Elsewhere, the ski resort and tourist hotspot of Zermatt in Valais was left inaccessible during the weekend, after the road and rail line leading to the town flooded.

Speaking to reporters in Misox, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis said that "it is a sad day for the affected communities, the cantons of Graubünden and Ticino and the whole of Switzerland." Writing on X, Swiss President Viola Amherd added that the damage caused by the storm was “shocking… My thoughts are with the affected population. I would like to thank the emergency services for their tireless efforts in this difficult situation.”

Landslide destroys part of A13 (San Bernardino Pass)

Four kilometres to the north of Lostallo, the landslide also swept away a 200-metre section of the A13 - the gateway to the San Bernardino Pass. All four lanes of the motorway were destroyed, blocking the route for the foreseeable future. Route 13, the original San Bernardino, has also been blocked.

As the San Bernardino is the second most important link between Swiss cities and Italy, and is seen as the overflow route for the Gotthard Road Tunnel, drivers have been told to expect increased delays on the now-overburdened alternate routes. These include the Gotthard itself and the Simplon pass - already, “unusually long” traffic jams have been recorded ahead of the tunnel, according to Touring Club Switzerland. "It is a very stressful scenario," noted Uri Security Director Céline Huber.

Reopening the San Bernardino may take months, say police

Speaking to Blick, a spokesperson for the Graubünden police predicted that while it would take a few days to reopen Route 13, it would take months for the motorway to reopen. The Federal Roads Office was slightly more upbeat, with spokesperson Lorenzo Quolantoni saying they “expect to be able to reopen the A13 in three to four weeks…assuming there are no nasty surprises." However, it will take even longer for the road to be back up to full capacity.

It is also currently unclear whether drivers will be diverted to the Gotthard and Simplon while the A13 is being repaired, or be allowed to use Route 13 (once it itself is repaired) to bypass the missing road - the latter plan is heavily opposed by officials in Graubünden, who argue this will lead to heavy traffic jams for local residents.

Thumb image credit: Robert Buchel /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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