Eight hikers were reported missing after the massive rockfall on the Piz Cengalo last Wednesday that sent four million cubic metres of mud and debris sliding into the Bondasca valley below.
On Saturday the search for the eight missing – four Germans, two Austrians and two Swiss – was called off, with police saying there was no longer any hope of finding anyone.
Due to a previous serious rockfall several years ago, the area had a warning system in place. This was set off when Wednesday’s landslide occurred, meaning around 100 people from the village of Bondo were safely evacuated before the debris hit.
However questions are now being asked as to whether sufficient warning signs were in place to inform hikers as to the potential danger in the area.
In an update on Sunday, police said they had informed Graubünden prosecutor’s office about their investigation into whether “these natural hazards were sufficiently indicated”.
Speaking to the media, Bondo’s mayor Anna Giacometti said signs were erected at several points on hiking trails to warn against the risk of rockfalls, and at least one path was closed off.
Letters were also sent to several property owners in the region, with a ban on entering some properties deemed at risk, said news agency ATS.
Experts suggest that climate change could be partially to blame for the disaster, with melting permafrost and an adjacent glacier likely destabilising the landmass.
As a result, there could well be more landslides in the area.
According to the Sunday papers, some 100 sites across the Swiss Alps are considered at risk and are being monitored with sensors, reported ATS.
In Valais, 15 to 20 sites are under surveillance, including four or five that pose a direct threat to manmade infrastructure, a geologist told Le Matin Dimanche.
In January researchers studying the Aletsch glacier proved that land slippage at Moosfluh was directly connected to the melting of the glacier “and thus to climate change”.
CIimate change a universal challenge
Responding to the Bondo disaster, the government on Monday outlined the steps it is taking to address the consequences of climate change, saying it must be considered a “challenge for the whole of society.”
Since 1864 the average temperature in Switzerland has increased by two degrees, more than double the global average, the government pointed out in a statement.
This is causing glaciers to melt and mountainsides to become unstable, consequences that the government is working with the cantons and communes to protect against.
“As the effects vary from one region to another, the cantons, the regions and the communes have an important role to play,” said Marc Chardonnens of the federal environment office, which is currently preparing a study of the risks in eight cantons, the results of which will be available at the end of this year.
Under a pilot scheme launched in 2013, the government is also supporting 31 projects that are tackling ways for the country to adapt to climate change.
Four of the projects were presented to the media on Monday, including a project identifying which plants and trees can stand up to climate change, and another aiming to reduce the effects of heatwaves on the population.
“It is better to prepare ourselves today than to manage the damage caused by climate change after the fact,” said the statement.