Flood alerts issued for Ticino’s Locarno region

Weather experts have sent out flood warnings for parts of Ticino following continued heavy rain in the southern part of Switzerland.

Flood alerts issued for Ticino's Locarno region
Lake Maggiore — on a sunny day. Photo: Alessandro Vecchi

MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, issued on midday Tuesday a level five warning  (on a scale of one to five) of flooding for Lake Maggiore, affecting the lakeside towns of Ascona and Locarno.

Locarno has already experienced its worst floods in nine years.

The city’s Santa Chiara clinic, located 50 metres from the lake, was evacuated on Tuesday, impacting 80 patients.

Twenty of them, receiving acute care, were transferred to the nearby La Carità hospital, clinic director Guido Bernasconi told the ATS news agency.

The other 60 patients were placed in homes for seniors or ambulatory medical care centres.

Residents of two caravan sites near the lake at Tenero were also evacuated, while civil protection workers rigged up elevated walkways in several parts of Locarno to allow pedestrians to walk without getting their feet wet.

The level of Lake Maggiore, which averages around 193 metres is expiated to rise as high as 196.5 metres by Thursday, a spokesman from the geological institute of the Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera told ATS.

This would still fall short of the record of 197.58 metres set in 2000.

The lake straddles the Swiss-Italian border and is more than 64 kilometres long.

Lake Lugano, to the east, is also higher than usual, with a level four warning issued for the Lugano area expected on Wednesday.

The heavy precipitation has led to level-four warnings of avalanches at higher elevations in Ticino and the Haut Valais region, with snow accumulating above 1,500 metres.

Between a metre and 1.5 metres of snow has fallen on the Val Maggia and Val Verzasca areas.

Last week, a 31-year-old woman and her three-year-old daughter died when a landslide swept away their home in Bombinasco, west of Lugano.

Ticino cantonal police put out a weather alert, advising members of the public:

– Not to stand on bridges or near waterways

– Be aware of the potential for landslides and falling trees

– Use private motor vehicles only when absolutely necessary in areas affected by the weather

Police added that traffic was being rerouted in areas around the Maggiore and Lugano lakes.

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Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: 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.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: 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.