More than 15 thousand tourists and locals have been left stranded after heavy snow in the Alps across Switzerland, France and Italy.
According to media reports, in the Swiss resort of Zermatt, about 13,000 holidaymakers have been left stranded as trains, roads and cable-cars approaching the town were shut down over fears of avalanches in the region after heavy snowfall on Tuesday.
According to reports, the resort in Zermatt is popular among wealthy and backpackers.
Swiss authorities have deployed helicopters to ferry some tourists to a nearby Taesch village. According to local officials, the air-rescue is an unofficial evacuation and it is being provided only on request.
The official further said, the air-evacuation can evacuate only 100 people an hour to the nearby village.
Romy Biner-Hauser, president of the local council said, “The situation is being monitored every half half an hour. Necessary measures are being taken to rescue the stranded tourists and locals.”
Swiss Police have closed roads leading in and out of Zermatt and canceled all train services. Hiking and skiing in the area has also been banned fearing an avalanche.
The decision was taken by the local authorities after the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (SFIFSLR) raised the avalanche risk level to 5.
The SFIFSLR added, “At least 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) of snow had dropped on the Zermatt area over the last 24 hours. In some remote areas, the snowfall topped 1 metre (39 inches).”
The research institute further said that the intense snowfall in Zermatt and Saas valleys was part of a broader weather pattern that was causing mudslides and intensifying the avalanche risk across a broad swath of southwestern Switzerland.
The SFIFSLR in its website wrote, “Very large natural dry avalanches are to be expected as a result of fresh snow and strong winds.”