Eight people are missing after a major landslide occurred at Piz Cengalo mountain in the Bregaglia range of Swiss Alps at 09:30 CET on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.
Experts estimate some 4 million m3 (141.2 million ft3) of rocks tumbled down the mountain, known for massive landslides, triggering a destructive debris flow toward the town of Bondo.
Although authorities initially reported there were no injuries or casualties, Graubünden cantonal police said in an August 24th statement that 8 people are missing, including German, Austrian and Swiss citizens.
The police said they were likely in the area when the slide occurred and asked the Federal Civil Aviation Office to close the airspace around the town of Bondo to allow uninterrupted rescue operations.
This region is known for massive landslides and is monitored by an alarm system since a similar event in 2012. When the alarm took off, the fire service evacuated 100 residents of Bondo as well as people staying at two Swiss Alpine Club cabins nearby.
Assisted by a helicopter, rescue teams spent the night searching for the eight missing people.
"There are often hikers in the affected area," said Graubunden police spokesman Markus Walser, adding that the area did not have mobile phone reception. "We hope this is the reason we have not been able to reach the people believed to be in the area."
Piz Cengalo mountain and the town of Bondo - location of August 23, 2017 landslide and debris flow. Credit: Google
Between two mountains - Bondo, Switzerland. Credit: Google
The slide triggered a destructive debris flow that reached Bondo, destroying an old bridge on the Bondasca River and damaging or destroying 12 stalls and farmhouses. "The H3 road was closed to traffic for safety reasons," the police said.
Rock avalanche in Val Bregaglia resulted in this clogging of the riverbed further down in Valchiavenna (Swiss side). Video: SOS Emergenza pic.twitter.com/Aj2Ib8By82— severe-weather.EU (@severeweatherEU) August 23, 2017
Local media reported there were about thirty small collapses at this site since June 24. The site experienced major collapses in 2011, 2012. Another notable collapse was recorded at the mountain on September 11, 2016.
At a televised news conference on Thursday afternoon, police said another group of six people might also be missing, according to Reuters. It was unclear from relatives, however, whether these individuals were in the area where the landslide occurred or somewhere else.
Featured image: Damage after massive debris flow hit Bondo, Switzerland. Credit: Graubünden cantonal police