Storm in Valais – “The people in Saas-Grund are shocked and dismayed” – News

In addition to the Maggia Valley, the Valais was also affected by the severe storms in southern Switzerland. The Rhone overflowed its banks near Sierre. And further up, in the southern Saas Valley, the town of Saas-Grund was hit by masses of water and debris. One person was killed and property damage amounted to tens of millions of francs. SRF correspondent Roger Brunner describes the situation on site.

Roger Brunner

Wales Correspondent


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Roger Brunner has been a TV correspondent since 2014 and reports for SRF from the canton of Valais.

SRF News: What is the current situation in Saas-Grund?

Roger Brunner: As of Sunday evening, the extent of the damage is enormous. The Triftbach river burst its banks in the middle of the village. The village street is buried meters deep in rubble and debris. Several houses were damaged. The picture is massive destruction. It will take weeks or even months until the village looks the way it did before the disaster.

Legend:

A picture of the destruction in Saas-Grund. The clean-up work in the village is expected to take weeks or even months.

Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott

Can you compare the extent of the destruction with previous, similar events?

The damage is reminiscent of 1993, when the Saltina River burst its banks in Brig and covered the entire Bahnhofstrasse down to the train station with rubble. The impression here in Saas-Grund is also reminiscent of the images from Gondo in 2000, when a cone of rubble went right through the middle of the village – even if the extent of the destruction there was much more devastating back then.

Legend:

In 1993, the Saltina River overflowed its banks and Brig was flooded with rubble and mud. Two people died.

Keystone/René Ritler

In Saas-Grund, a man died in a hotel basement. How do you deal with this?

The grief is great – and such an event takes on a whole new dimension when people die. After last weekend, when Zermatt in particular was flooded, people in Valais said: OK, we got off lightly – and they started to clean up. And just a week later, an even bigger event occurred that claimed a life. People here are in shock and grief.

How are people in Saas-Grund – residents and tourists – dealing with the situation?

They are still shocked. Everyone says that they could never have imagined something like this. The volume of water was immense – and with it the volume of rubble. All of this happened in the middle of the night from Saturday to Sunday.

Everyone is helping out where they can to clear Saas-Grund again.

On Sunday morning there was no cell phone reception, which made some people even more afraid. But alongside the shock, there is also a huge sense of solidarity. Everyone is pitching in where they can to clear Saas-Grund again.

The disaster images go around the world – but once the rubble has been cleared away, no one reports on it anymore.

Can you estimate how long the clean-up work will take?

The priority now is to open the road as quickly as possible. There are many holidaymakers in the valley, the summer season has already started. Many want to arrive or depart. It is hoped that the road to Saas-Grund will be passable again by Wednesday and that Saas-Almagell and Saas-Fee will also be accessible again.

Have the severe weather events in Valais last weekend and this weekend already had an impact on tourism?

The pictures from Zermatt last week went around the world – but just a few days later, there was no trace of the event in the village on Bahnhofstrasse, a popular tourist street. But apparently, even days later, there were still inquiries from people who thought that Zermatt was lying under meters of rubble and was still cut off from the outside world. That’s the age of social media today: The disaster pictures go around the world, but when everything has been cleared away and the rubble has been removed, no one reports on it anymore.

The interview was conducted by Marielle Saner.

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