Heavy snowfalls and a high threat of avalanches stranded around 13,000 tourists in the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt for two days.
With ski slopes, hiking paths and cable cars around the upmarket village closed, helicopters were brought in to airlift those who urgently needed to leave to the nearby village of Tasch, where awaiting buses have been making onward journeys.
According to The Guardian, local police said the airlift was limited to about 100 people an hour.
Trains have been unable to reach the village, which is normally free of cars, since late Monday afternoon.
While there is no immediate risk to the thousands of tourists who remain at the resort, Zermatt spokeswoman Janine Imesch warned of “possible power breakdowns all over Zermatt”. But Imesch added that “everything is normal, everything is under control”.
“People are enjoying the snow, going shopping, eating and drinking. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. No one can go skiing or hiking, but it’s quiet, even a little bit romantic,” she told The Guardian.
Romy Biner-Hauser, president of the Valais region in which Zermatt resides, said the avalanche risk at several resorts in the area was raised to its maximum level of five on Monday. It is the first time in nearly ten years this critical level has been reached.
The 5,500 residents of the high-profile resort town, which is located near the famous Matterhorn Mountain, have been urged to stay indoors with their window shutters closed.