Storm debris endangers Lake Biel boat traffic

Authorities suspended until Friday boat traffic on the Aar River between Bienne, in the canton of Bern, and Solothurn due to the high volume of wood debris following torrential rain over the weekend.

Storm debris endangers Lake Biel boat traffic
Photo: BSG

Bern cantonal police on Monday issued a warning for caution to operators of boats on Lake Biel because of tree trunks and branches in the lake.

Work got under way to collect the wood to minimize danger of collisions for boaters.

Cruises on Lake Biel and the Three Lakes route were maintained, the Bielersee Schiffhart (BSG), operator of passenger boats, announced.

Meanwhile, authorities increased the flow of water into the Nidau-Büren canal to ensure that the level of the lake did not spill over its banks.

Heavy rain between Friday night and Sunday morning caused millions of francs’ worth of damage in the regions of Fribourg, Bern, Frauenfeld (in the canton of Thurgau) and Winterthur (in the canton of Zurich).

The basements of numerous buildings were flooded, the ATS news agency reported.

Bern property insurer GVB estimated damage in the canton at around four million francs ($4.5 million).

Köniz, a suburb of the Swiss capital, was the worst hit, accounting for close to half the damage.

Six people forced to evacuate their homes in the municipality on Saturday night were able to return, ATS said.

Insurance company GVRG estimated damage in the canton of Thurgau at up to one million francs.

Meanwhile, rail service resumed on Monday on the line between Bern and Fribourg after a landslide on the weekend halted trains.

Passenger trains began to run again the same day on the Montreux-Oberland- Bernois (MOB) line between Chamby, in the canton of Vaud, and Montbovon, in the canton of Fribourg, after crews cleared another landslide.

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Climate crisis: Swiss lakes at lowest-ever August levels

Some of Switzerland's best-known lakes are at their lowest level ever for August after a dry year so far in 2022, the environment ministry said on Wednesday.

Climate crisis: Swiss lakes at lowest-ever August levels

Some of Switzerland’s best-known lakes are at their lowest level ever for August after a dry year so far in 2022, the environment ministry said on Wednesday.

At the same time, discharge levels on the Rhine, one of Europe’s major rivers which starts in the Swiss Alps, have never been so low in August since records began.

“There is a low water situation in Switzerland, especially on the central plateau and in the southern part of Ticino,” the country’s southernmost canton, said Michele Oberhansli, from the Federal Office for the Environment’s hydrology division.

READ ALSO: Water flown in by helicopter: How Switzerland has been hit by drought

“The reason for the existing situation is a precipitation deficit in the whole year of 2022, which affects the whole of Switzerland, as well as many other European countries,” she told AFP.

Soil moisture is down across the country and drought is affecting forests and agriculture, she said.

Lakes Constance, Lucerne, Lugano and Walen “are currently recording water levels that have never been so low in an August month since measurements began”, said Oberhansli.

Meanwhile Lakes Zug and Maggiore “continue to show values well below average”.

The shores of Lake Maggiore mark the lowest point in Switzerland, normally at 193 metres above sea level.

READ ALSO: MAP: The Swiss regions in danger of wildfires and the measures in place to avoid them

Except the lakes in the Jura region in the northwest and Lake Thun, the levels of all the other larger Swiss lakes are also below the long-term average.

Rivers down, glaciers melting

Meanwhile many Swiss rivers are recording readings that only occur once every two to 20 years.

“Discharge values on the Reuss and Rhine have never been so low since measurements began in August,” said Oberhansli.

The hydrologist said rain over the coming days should “slightly alleviate” the low water and drought levels, but would “not yet be sufficient to ease the overall situation”.

Following a dry winter, the summer heatwaves hitting Europe have been catastrophic for Switzerland’s Alpine glaciers, which have been melting at an accelerated rate.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

A layer of ice — 15 metres thick in 2012 — has covered the Tsanfleuron Pass between two glaciers since at least the Roman era.

But most of it has gone and the ice on the pass will have melted away completely by the end of September, a ski resort said last week.