Heavy rain causes flooding mayhem

Torrential rain has triggered landslides and extensive flooding in central Switzerland.

Heavy rain causes flooding mayhem
File image of a Saint Gallen downpour (Photo: Aapo Haapanen).

The cantons of Schwyz, Glaris, Zug and Saint Gallen were the hardest hit, with some areas receiving more rain in the last two days than the average for all of October, the ATS news service reported.

The most precipitation was recorded in Amden-Arvenbüel in the canton of Saint Gallen where 126 litres of rain per square metre of ground fell, Meteomedia said on Wednesday.

Streams overflowed their banks, basements flooded and rocks and mud slid down slopes.

Schwyz cantonal police said they received 20 calls for help over flooding in homes and roads made impassable.

A landslide cut off a highway in Siebnen, a community in the canton of Schwyz.
Members of the fire department in Zug responded to 30 cases of flooded buildings and roads.

A video posted on the 20 Minutes website showed a road in Ettingen, in the canton of Basel country, transformed into a river of muddy water.

The rain tapered off in most parts of Switzerland on Tuesday at around 9.30 pm.

But MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, said mild and wet conditions would continue through Wednesday with a break on Thursday before more rain is expected to pelt the country on Friday.

Meanwhile, high water levels in the River Rhine have forced authorities to suspend shipping of cargo along a  20-kilometre stretch.

Transport by barges between Basel and Kembs is off limits until further notice, the Port of Switzerland announced on Wednesday.

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Damage from floods mounts into billions

The devastating floods that hit central and Eastern Europe last month caused up to $4.5 billion (€3.5 billion) in losses for the insurance industry, Switzerland's re-insurance group Swiss Re said on Monday.

"The total losses for the insurance industry are estimated between $3.5 and $4.5 billion," the company said in a statement, adding that its portion of the bill would be around $300 million.

Swollen rivers caused deadly floods in the eastern part of Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia in late May and June, killing at least 19 people, forcing thousands to evacuate and destroying property and crops.

The total insurance bill estimated by Swiss Re was lower than estimates by ratings agency Fitch, which last month cautioned the deluge could be more costly than the "worst-in-a-century" floods in 2002.

It forecast €12 billion in damage in Germany alone, of which up to €3 billion euros would be covered by insurance policies.

Swiss Re; meanwhile; welcomed the fact that local flood prevention measures had spared many regions from large losses, as in Prague, where mobile flood barriers saved most of the city from significant flooding.