The authorities of eastern Switzerland ordered the residents of the village of Brienz to evacuate. According to geologists, the mass of stones with a volume of 2 million cubic meters, hanging overhead, may fall in the coming weeks.
The Guardian reports that officials said residents would have to leave by 6 p.m. but could return to the village from time to time, depending on the level of risk, but not stay overnight.
Officials said measurements showed “strong acceleration over a large area” in recent days, and “up to 2 million cubic meters of rock material will fall or slide in the next 7 to 24 days.”
The ancient village is located southwest of Davos at an altitude of about 1150 meters. Today, less than 100 residents live there. According to residents, the mountain and the stones on it have been moving since the last ice age.
Over the last century, the village itself has moved a few centimeters each year, but in the last 20 years this movement has accelerated, and now the landslide is shifting at about one meter per year. Geological studies show that the situation has become even more dangerous.
Christian Hartmann, a member of the crisis management council in the town of Albula, which includes Brienz, said experts estimated there was a 60 percent chance the rock would break into smaller pieces that might not even reach the village. There is also a 10% chance that the entire mass of 2 million cubic meters could fall, threatening life, property and the village itself.
According to Hartmann, experts agreed that a controlled explosion was too dangerous because it would require drilling beneath the rock, a dangerous operation in itself. Building a giant pile of sand or a wall to try to block the gap is not possible, he said, adding that the height of the wall must be at least 70 meters to protect the village.
Many of the evacuees were expected to stay with family or friends, although local officials had received offers from concerned neighbors to provide temporary housing, Hartmann said.