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Switzerland evacuates village threatened by vast rockfall

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Swiss authorities ordered residents of a small mountain village to leave the area because they feared it would be buried under a mountainside that was collapsing.

On Thursday (11 May), a thick layer of fog blanketed the mountaintop that overlooks the village of Brienz. The vegetation had been replaced with a slope made of mud and stones.

Farmers were seen loading cows into a truck, and driving it away from the village. Yellow warning signs were posted in five different languages, stating: "Attention Rockfall".

Local authorities warn that Brienz faces a serious risk as 2 million cubic metres of rock may soon fall from the mountain and damage or crush its charming homes.

Christian Gartmann is a member of Albula's crisis management board. Albula includes Brienz. "We expect the rock to fall toward the village in the next few weeks or days."

Brienz, a village of less than 100 residents, has been given until the evening of Friday to evacuate. Daniel Albertin is the village mayor and he's confident that all residents will be gone by Friday evening.

He said: "This is an enormous task for the whole community."

A farmer who was caring for the cows that were being evacuated agreed.

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Hanneke said: "It is a lot of work for us right now," as she opened the enclosure.

Swiss authorities claim that climate change puts Switzerland at greater risk for natural hazards. This includes an increased erosion rate due to warmer temperatures.

Brienz's damage is unknown.

Gartmann stated that "the rock could come down in pieces, which would be a more favorable solution". It can also fall at once which would be catastrophic for the village.

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