Alps snowfall: Trains reach tourists stranded in Zermatt

Workers cut through snow wall on the Bessans to Bonneval-sur-Arc road in FranceImage copyright
Alain Duclos

Image caption

Workers cut through a 7m high wall of snow to clear the Bessans to Bonneval-sur-Arc road in south-east France

Trains have begun running to the Swiss resort of Zermatt, where more than 13,000 tourists have been trapped for two days because of heavy snow.

The local railway firm said services resumed on Wednesday evening after tracks had been cleared of snow.

The unusually heavy snowfall has caused havoc across the Alpine region, and led to several casualties.

Dramatic photos showed workers cutting through a 7m (22ft) wall of snow to clear a road in south-east France.

Taken by Alain Duclos, they showed the ice corridor reconnecting Bessans and Bonneval-sur-Arc in the Savoie region.

Mr Duclos said the area had been hit by a huge avalanche.

Image copyright
Alain Duclos

Image caption

An avalanche had isolated the 250 inhabitants of Bonneval-sur-Arc

Image copyright
Alain Duclos

Image caption

Workers cut through 250m of snow to reach the village, creating walls 4-7m high

Up to 1.8m (6ft) of snow fell in 36 hours in parts of Savoie, leading French forecasters to describe the snowfall as the kind that is only seen “once in every 30 years”.

It led to a number of avalanches and caused power cuts and road closures, disrupting transport services.

Skiing has not been possible with the avalanche risk level set at maximum for the first time in 10 years.

One skier was killed and another injured during an avalanche in the French Pyrenees. A British skier, John Bromell, remains unaccounted for after he was last seen on the slopes in the French Alpine resort of Tignes on Sunday.

Media captionThe avalanche risk in the town of Zermatt means skiing is not possible

Twenty-nine people had a lucky escape after a five-storey building was hit by an avalanche in the Italian Alps resort of Sestrieres late on Monday. They were able to flee through the garage.

But a 70-year-old woman suffering from severe illness died on the road from Sestrieres after a fallen tree prevented her ambulance reaching hospital in time.

Despite the fact that they were stranded for two days, the tourists in Zermatt had reported being in good spirits and the tourist office described the atmosphere as “relaxed and comfortable”. Some even described it as “romantic”.

More than 1,000 people had chosen to be airlifted out of the resort on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn railway company said the first shuttle trains between Zermatt and Täsch began operating at 17:15 (16:15 GMT) on Wednesday.

It hopes to have the onward route from Täsch to Visp operating on Thursday but “until then, replacement buses will continue to operate”.

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Alps snowfall: Trains reach tourists stranded in Zermatt

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