Intense rainfall has disrupted road and rail traffic in Valais, Bernese Oberland and central Switzerland, and some mountain villages have been evacuated.

"/> Intense rainfall has disrupted road and rail traffic in Valais, Bernese Oberland and central Switzerland, and some mountain villages have been evacuated.

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WEATHER

Switzerland hit by major flooding

Intense rainfall has disrupted road and rail traffic in Valais, Bernese Oberland and central Switzerland, and some mountain villages have been evacuated.

The capital Bern is on high alert after water levels in the river Aar rose by two metres over the last 24 hours. Although the Rhine tributary has not yet overflowed, the fire brigade is on high alert with the river flowing at more than double its normal rate — 420m3/s compared to an average for October of 200m3/s.

Heavy rains have also pounded other parts of Bern canton, as well as cantons Nidwalden and Obwalden in central Switzerland, and Valais in the southwest. Several creeks and rivers overflowed on Monday, spilling their contents across streets and train tracks.

Rail services have been temporarily disrupted and roads closed between Frutigen and Kandersteg in the Kander river valley in west-central Switzerland.

Flooding on the rail tracks between ten days. The Mitholz road tunnel has also flooded, but authorities have not yet established the severity of the damage.

Trains have also ground to a partial halt between Dallenwill (Nidwalden) and Engelberg (Obwalden)  in central Switzerland.

In the Valais, the level of the Rhone has also risen causing minor flooding in Sierre, according to local police.

Emergency services also rescued inhabitants from several mountain villages such as Gasterntal, Kandersteg and Mitholz in the Bernese Alps, as well as Lötschental, Leuk and Leukerbad in canton Valais.

The situation eased early on Tuesday morning as rain clouds dispersed.

According to the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, the flooding was caused by the arrival of a warm front on Sunday night bringing a mixture of heavy rain and warm temperatures that melted mountain snow.

In some regions, water levels rose to levels not seen since the historic floods of 2005.

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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