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13,000 tourists stranded in Zermatt, village cut off as avalanche risk raised to max

Several villages in southern Switzerland, including the ski resort of Zermatt, were cut off from the outside world on Tuesday after extreme weather conditions raised the avalanche risk to the maximum level.

13,000 tourists stranded in Zermatt, village cut off as avalanche risk raised to max
Zermatt on Tuesday morning. Photo: webcam image
Both the road and the railway line to Zermatt were closed after the avalanche risk was raised to five, commune president Romy Biner-Hauser told Valais paper Le Nouvelliste on Monday evening, however as yet the village has not had to be evacuated.
 
“The situation is being monitored every half hour and if things change we will take the necessary measures,” he said.
 
By Tuesday morning Swiss media said the village was now suffering electricity black-outs, and that some 13,000 tourists were stranded in the ski resort, unable to leave.
 
All ski installations in Zermatt and Saas-Fee were closed on Tuesday morning due to the heavy snow and extreme conditions.
 
“We can't ski or go walking, but it's calm, a bit romantic,” Janine Imesch, a spokesperson for the Zermatt area, told the media.
 
Two houses in St Niklaus, near Zermatt, were evacuated on Monday evening. Elsewhere in the canton of Valais the villages of Gondo and Saas were also cut off after landslides on the roads, while the road between St Luc and Zinal in the Val d’Anniviers was closed on Tuesday morning due to the high avalanche risk.
 
In recent days a foehn wind has brought mild temperatures and rain to the Swiss lowlands, however it’s an entirely different story above 1,200m-1,600m altitude in the southern canton of Valais, where up to a metre of snow has fallen in the last few days. More is expected throughout Tuesday, according to MeteoNews.
 
People took to social media to post photos and videos of the abundant snowfall, showing Zermatt and other villages blanketed in white. 
 

 

 
By contrast, parts of Switzerland on Monday experienced temperatures far above the seasonal norm, with Altdorf in the canton of Uri hitting 17.6 degrees. Einsiedeln in Schwyz set a new January record with 14 degrees.
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‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

As temperatures climb again, many people may struggle to get a good night's sleep in Switzerland. Here are some expert tips to help you even when it's sweltering hot.

‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

Switzerland’s summers tend to get hotter and this season has seen its share of heatwaves, bringing temperatures closer to 40C and making it almost impossible to sleep.

This could mean trouble for residents of a country better prepared to bear the cold weather than the extreme heat.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has three ‘golden rules’ for how to make it through heatwaves; avoid exercise during the hottest part of the day, keep the heat out of your house however you can, drink and eat smart (fresh foods and lots of water).

With night temperatures in some regions above 20C, Swiss residents will also need some help getting through the night.

Here are a few tips to keep cool overnight and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing and removing sweat from your body.

Give a little help to your internal clock

Many people think that it is only the extreme heat in summer making your sleep seem a bit worse than in the colder months. But the fact that days are brighter for longer makes a huge difference.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland’s largest cities are combating the heat

As light suppresses our body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that signals that it is time to sleep, the longer days irritate our internal clock, according to sleep experts.

The old tip of turning off your devices to avoid the blue light is also extra crucial. So around one hour before going to bed, you can start your “darkening” ritual throughout your home.

In that sense, it’s also better to avoid naps during the day to keep a better sleep routine.

Try to cool your room and yourself

Of course, the cooler temperatures are in your bedroom when you go to sleep, the better. You can help get temperatures a few degrees down by following these tips: keep the blinds and windows shut during the worst of the day and ventilate the cooler night breeze during the night.

Sleeping during a heatwave can be difficult. Photo: Yuris Alhumaydy / Unsplash

You can also moisten your curtains just before bedtime and leave the window open; the water evaporation will make it a bit cooler. If you can, another tip is to put your mattress on the floor as hot air rises – excellent advice for those sleeping on a bunk bed.

Don’t forget to turn off (and unplug!) electrical appliances, as those are heat sources.

READ ALSO: Eight great swimming spots to escape the Swiss summer heat

To cool yourself, you could take a lukewarm evening shower (not a hot one, those will make your body react by generating heat).

Fans and humidity help

As long as you’ve kept your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature.

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room, which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Why is it essential to have a good night’s sleep?

Several days of scorching temperatures can cause heat stress, according to the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

If the nights are not cool enough, the body can’t recover from the heat of the day, creating a dangerous condition called “thermal stress”, which can be fatal for the elderly and other vulnerable people.

While there are no statistics showing how many people have fallen victim to heat stress during the most recent heatwave, several cantons have implemented a system of home visits and frequent phone contact with this at-risk group.

READ MORE: How to keep your cool during Switzerland’s heatwave

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