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Violent thunderstorm pummels Switzerland

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Violent thunderstorm pummels Switzerland
Meritxell Mir
11:33 CET+01:00

Swiss authorities are asking citizens to watch out for falling trees, stay away from the woods, and secure loose belongings, especially Christmas lights, as thunderstorm "Joachim" moves in over the country.

Joachim is expected to reach its peak by midday, with gusts of 100 km/h forecast in low-lying areas and 150 km/h in the mountains, said MéteoSuisse.

The low pressure system has been making its way down from northern France and Germany, and “is expected to cause major damage," meteorologist Thomas Bucheli told Tages Anzeiger.

MéteoSwiss added, though, that Joachim won’t reach the same level as the storm Lothar, which swept across France, Switzerland and Germany in December 1999.

In Switzerland alone, the storm caused 14 deaths, destroyed 10 million trees and caused property damage of around 600 million francs ($639 million). The total death toll for the hurricane in central Europe reached 137 people.

Doris Walther, head of the crisis information service in canton Basel-country, has asked citizens to use common sense. 

Hikers should not go into the woods, drivers should pay attention to fallen trees or branches, and loose objects must be secured.

“One should also pay attention to whether Christmas lights have been put up properly,” she told Tages Anzeiger.

As a preventative measure, the company operating boat services on Lake Geneva between the Swiss and French shores has cancelled all services.

The interruption will affect about 1,600 commuters, and there will be no replacement bus service since no operators are capable of carrying so many passengers in one day, a spokesman for the company told Tages Anzeiger. Normal service is expected to resume on Saturday morning.

Gusts of 130km/h were already recorded in the early hours of Friday in Chasseral, in the Bernese Jura.

In the same area, several roads have been closed off due to fallen trees, while a train was derailed after hitting a tree that had fallen on the tracks. Twelve passengers sustained minor injuries, but no one was hospitalized.

Authorities are also warning of a heightened avalanche risk throughout the weekend. Gusting winds and heavy snowfall will make the situation "delicate," weather forecaster Christine Pielmeier told La Tribune de Genève. Snow levels could reach between 70 and 80 centimetres above 2,000 metres.

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