Swiss town ordered to evacuate as experts predict imminent rockfall

Swiss town ordered to evacuate as experts predict imminent rockfall

Residents of the town of Brienz / Brinzauls in Switzerland have been ordered to evacuate by the local council (Gemeinde), due to a clear and imminent threat of heavy rockfalls and landslides. Locals have until 6pm on May 12 to leave the area.

Brienz / Brinzauls prepares for imminent rockfalls

Speaking to Swissinfo, local authorities in Canton Graubünden said that two million cubic metres worth of rock is quickly moving down the hillside near Brienz / Brinzauls. Experts suggested these rocks are set to break loose and either fall or slide in the next one to three weeks, likely engulfing the town.

Therefore, after warning residents in April that they would have to evacuate by the end of the year, the new threat has activated the “orange phase” of the operation. All of the 130 people that live in the village will now have to leave their homes by 6pm on Friday. All the roads around Brienz / Brinzauls are only open to residents and people who have bought houses in and around the area.

Locals barred from the town at night by Swiss authorities

From May 12, nobody will be allowed to stay in the town overnight. If the danger level permits, the emergency services may allow locals to come back to the town during the day. Local cows and other livestock will remain in Brienz / Brinzauls for the time being, and local public transport services, which include the Glacier Express, are not affected at the time of writing.

Speaking to Swissinfo, experts explained that the town and mountain near Brienz sit on highly unstable ground, with water separating the landmass from solid earth. As a result, the hillside and town itself have been moving down into the valley, causing regular small rockfalls outside the town. As the slide speeds up, the town now faces much more severe rockfalls, with authorities explaining that “current measurements show a high acceleration over a large area”, measuring up to two million cubic meters of rock.

Full evacuation of the Swiss town expected in the coming weeks

If local officials find that this mass of rock is due to break off and either fall or slide within three to 10 days, the emergency services will activate the so-called “red phase”. From that point, no one will be able to enter the town at any time, and all livestock will be driven away.

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...

Read more



Leave a comment