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Reader question: Where is my nearest nuclear shelter in Switzerland?

Although the war between Russia and Ukraine is confined to that region of eastern Europe, many people in Switzerland are wondering where to go for safety in a highly unlikely event that the conflict spreads westward.

Reader question: Where is my nearest nuclear shelter in Switzerland?
Some of the emergency supplies recommended by Swiss government.Photo by Roger Brown on Pexels

Even though neutral Switzerland hasn’t been attacked by a foreign power since Napoleon’s invasion in 1798, and wasn’t invaded by Germany in WWII, the country had built enough fallout shelters to protect its entire population — just in case.

Some private houses built before the end of the 1980s have their own bunkers, with a reinforced steel door, ventilation system, anti-gas filter, and enough shelves to stock a two-week supply of water, medications, and non-perishable food.

READ MORE: What are Switzerland’s nuclear bunkers and does each home need one?

But in the past several decades the trend has been toward communal shelters. This is what you need to know about them.

How many fallout shelters does Switzerland have?

According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Population (OFPP), Switzerland has 360,000 shelters. Among them, 5,100 are publicly managed by civil protection, the rest being shelters located in private buildings.

How many people can be accommodated there?

They can accommodate 8.6 million people. Switzerland is the only country in the world that could house practically its entire population in its shelters.

How do you find your shelter?

The cantons are responsible for planning and defining who will be allocated where. “This information is communicated only when the situation requires it,” according to Linda Studer, spokesperson for the OFPP.

When should you go to your assigned shelter?

The government will decide this. It maintains a network of around 7,200 stationary and mobile sirens across the country as a public warning system that would be used in case of a national emergency.

If the sirens go off outside of the annual test held on first Wednesday in February, the population may be in danger.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s annual siren test: What you need to know

You should immediately listen to the radio, follow instructions and inform your neighbours, who, for any number of reasons including building soundproofing, may not have heard the sirens.

A notification will also be sent via the free Alertswiss app.

The Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) also advises everyone to keep a transistor radio on hand with spare batteries in case of power cuts. Failing that, use a car radio.

Would the facilities be ready for use?

It is above all the shelters located in private buildings that are currently used for other purposes. This is permitted by law, provided the space can be commissioned for emergency use within 12 hours of the government’s order to evacuate.

What should such a shelter have in case of an emergency?

The law requires toilets, a supply of fresh air and enough cots. Added to this are construction requirements such as the thickness of the walls.

However, there are no requirements in terms of reserves for shelters located in private buildings. In this area, homeowners are responsible for stocking emergency supplies.

FONES recommends that shelters be stocked with nine litres per person of drinking water, as well as non-perishable or long-lasting essentials including rice, canned goods, sugar, coffee, and tea, along with medications, flashlights, transistor radio, and enough batteries.

This is a full list (in German) of supplies needed in shelters for emergency situation.

The list in French and Italian can be downloaded from FONES’ website (scroll to the bottom of the page).

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.