Mother and child killed in Ticino landslide

A landslide that swept a home away claimed the lives of a 31-year-old woman and her three-year-old daughter in the canton of Ticino, cantonal police said on Thursday.

Mother and child killed in Ticino landslide
Water cascades over retaining wall onto road in Locarno area of Ticino. Photo: RSI

The slide carried away the house in a heavily wooded area in Bombinasco at around 6.15pm on Wednesday, police said in a statement.

The victims, who were renting the home, were retrieved by searchers including a dog team, fire fighters and police officers, at 4.30am on Thursday, the statement said.

Police said the landslide occurred on a steep slope and wiped out the equivalent of 4,500 cubic metres of wood, mainly from chestnut trees.

Claudio Zali, cantonal minister of lands, said the area was not considered at risk for such an event.

"Things like this should not happen, but we must be aware that extraordinary events such as this can happen," Zali told Italian-language broadcaster RSI.

"We must remember that we live in a mountainous canton and when rainfall is exceptionally heavy, as was the case over these past few days, things like this can happen."

Zali, who went to the location of the slide to observe the start of the rescue operation, passed on his condolences to the victim's family.

He also said that the canton would re-evaluate its method of determining the risk of such events happening elsewhere.

The landslide follows heavy rain in the canton over the past day after a windstorm swept through the Alps earlier this week.  

Authorities closed the nearby road between Banco and Astano because of fears of another slide in the area west of Lugano and close to the Italian border.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, cantonal police reported finding two people dead inside a car that caught fire in Mendrisio on Thursday at about 7.30am.

Police said an investigation was under way to identify the victims and found out what happened. 

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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.