Residents of the small Swiss mountain village of Brienz have been forced to evacuate due to a warning of massive falling rocks. According to BBC and other foreign media outlets on May 9th, the Swiss canton of Graubünden issued a warning that a huge mass of rocks is likely to hit the village of Brienz in eastern Switzerland. In response, the authorities have closed off the area below the mountain and instructed about 70 residents to leave the village until May 12th.
The authorities are predicting that 2 million cubic meters of rocks will fall from the mountain within the next three weeks and cover the village. The village of Brienz has been considered at risk due to the slope of the terrain and geological hazards. The church steeple in the village has tilted to one side, and large cracks have been observed throughout the buildings. Rockslides have frequently occurred in the village gardens as the mountain behind the village has split.
Initially, geologists had planned to evacuate the village in the summer, around the time when the back mountain cliff was expected to slip about 32 meters. However, the slipping speed became faster than expected, forcing the residents to evacuate urgently. Fortunately, it was still before the ski season, and there were many vacancies in nearby resorts. The residents are expected to stay temporarily in the resorts provided.
Due to global warming, the risk of rockslides in Swiss mountainous areas has increased. As the warm weather continues, glaciers are decreasing and permafrost is melting, making the terrain unstable. As of last summer, Swiss glaciers had decreased to less than half their size a century ago, according to measurements.
The Graubünden region previously experienced a major landslide equivalent to a magnitude 3 earthquake in 2017. At that time, large rocks and soil from a nearby peak over 3300m high flowed down, burying several dozen houses and barns, and eight residents lost their lives.