Lightning bolt ignites fire that destroys farmhouse

A bolt of lightning sparked a fire that destroyed a farmhouse in the canton of Bern at the weekend as Switzerland’s latest heatwave gave way to thunderstorms and rain.

Lightning bolt ignites fire that destroys farmhouse
Photo: Bern cantonal police

Around 100 firefighters responded to quell the blaze at the farm in Kleindietwil in the municipality of Madiswil that broke out at around 10.15pm, Bern cantonal police said in a statement on Sunday.

Residents of the home were able to leave the house unharmed while animals escaped injury, the statement said.

Firefighters had difficulty responding to the fire because the nearest source of water was a kilometre away, police said.

While they could not save the home and outbuildings they managed to prevent the fire from spreading to a neighbouring home, where residents were evacuated.

The lightning strike cut electricity to homes in the area.

The storm came after temperatures rose as high as 35C in parts on Switzerland on Saturday for a second day.

MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, forecast heavy rain for Sunday night, issuing a level three danger warning for western Switzerland, including the Lake Geneva and Jura regions.

Cooler weather is predicted on Monday but temperatures are expected to rise on Tuesday.

By Wednesday highs of 33C are on the cards for places as divers as Basel, Sion (in the capital of Valais) and Chur, while temperatures are set to rise well above 30 degrees again in Geneva, Zurich and Lugano.

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What’s next after Switzerland’s ‘extremely worrying’ heatwave?

Switzerland hit record high temperatures for June for the first time in 75 years on Sunday but what's the forecast for the coming days and weeks?

What's next after Switzerland's 'extremely worrying' heatwave?

With 36.9C recorded in Beznau, in the canton of Aargau on Sunday, Switzerland equalled the high temperature record held by Basel since 1947.

Other Swiss towns experienced sweltering temperatures as well: In Neuchâtel the mercury rose to 36.5C, in Sion it hit 36.4C and  in Lausanne it was 32.6C, according to MeteoNews.

Temperatures were decidedly more pleasant at high altitudes in the mountains: the temperature of 16.9C was recorded at 2,900 metres in the shade on the Diablerets glacier.

Whilst lower down at the Moléson in Fribourg, which stands at 2,000 metres, a more seasonal 24 degrees was recorded.

Like its neighbours, “Switzerland is not immune to brief and extreme phenomena”, climatologist Martin Beniston, honorary professor at the University of Geneva, said in an interview with Tribune de Genève.

And if high temperatures continue — as they are forecast for next days — “the very dry ground will reinforce the warming, it is a vicious circle”, said Vincent Devantay, meteorologist from MeteoNews.

This means higher risk of fires, especially in the forest. “They have really dried up compared to last year. The lack of rain is becoming extremely worrying”, he pointed out.

Thunderstorms are predicted in parts of Switzerland towards the end of the week but they will not necessarily prevent the drought, Beniston said.

What the soil needs are “gentle showers, repeated, for two to three weeks”, rather than occasional heavy thunderstorms that don’t provide enough moisture for the earth’s deeper layers.

Continued rains are not expected in the immediate future and  forecasts for the summer months predict more intense heatwaves.

READ MORE: How this week’s heatwave will hit Switzerland and how to stay cool

What are the consequences of the heatwave and no rain?

As The Local already reported, Swiss glaciers are now melting faster than usual, partly due to the early heat wave in May.
READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

But there is more.

Hydrologist Massimiliano Zappa, also warns that current very high temperatures and no rain could speed up the drought across Switzerland, especially as Swiss rivers and streams “have a lower flow than the average of previous years”.

Water rationing could become inevitable, he said.

 “In Spain and southern Italy, for example, people know how to get by with little water, because they have been educated to meet their daily needs with less. But this is not part of Swiss mentality”, Zappa said.

The heat wave could also impact railway installations as well as electronic devices, according to Le Temps newspaper.

“Overheated smartphones, expanding rails, and computer fans running at full speed: high temperatures put a strain on infrastructure and our everyday objects, while requiring more energy”, Le Temps said.