Air force aids snow-stricken Ticino villages

The Swiss Air Force provided aid on Thursday to communities in the canton of Ticino that have been cut off following heavy snowfall in the southernmost Swiss region.

Air force aids snow-stricken Ticino villages
Ticino village of Bosco Gurin on Friday morning. Photo: RSI/Webcam

The armed forces organized flights from Locarno to provide provisions at the request of the canton to stricken areas.

A Super Puma helicopter transported 16 tonnes of hay for 60 cows otherwise without fodder in Sant’Antonio in the Valle di Peccia, the federal department of defence said.

A road into the valley has been blocked for several days by an avalanche, leaving several hundred people isolated.

“We hope to be able to open a gap to at least ensure a passage in case of an emergency,” Peccia Mayor Michel Rotanzi told the Corrriere del Ticino newspaper.

Two other Super Pumas and a Eurocopter EC635 are on standby for other emergency help in other Alpine areas, the defence department said.

The heavy snow has raised the risk of avalanches in much of Ticino, the government said.

The risk of an avalanche at the Campo Blenio ski resort forced the postponement of a giant slalom race planned for Friday, involving 15 MPs from the Ticino cantonal parliament.

The weather cleared on Thursday, but MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, said more snow is expected on Friday at higher elevations in the canton.

Five to 10 centimetres of the white stuff was forecast for the valleys in the northern part of Ticino, with more in the Alps.

Meanwhile, MeteoSwiss issued a code 3 warning of high winds up to 110 kilometres an hour in the Jura Mountains and part of the Alps extending from Wengen in the Bernese Oberland to Liechtenstein.

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2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: 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.

2022 sees record wildfire destruction in Europe: 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.