After 2-day halt, trains to snowbound Swiss town resume

The first passenger train is leaving the train station towards Taesch, in Zermatt, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Due to heavy snowfall and rain showers, Zermatt was only reachable by air. In the meantime the train track reopened this evening. (Dominic Steinmann/Keystone via AP)
A digger at work where an avalanche has blocked the road between Taesch and Zermatt, Wednesday Jan. 10, 2018. Swiss authorities have closed ski slopes, hiking trails, cable cars, roads into the town of Zermatt amid a heightened risk of avalanches, stranding some 13,000 tourists in the town. A train packed with tourists has begun the descent from a snowbound town near Switzerland's Matterhorn as railway service resumed following a nearly two-day suspension due to avalanche risks. (Dominic Steinmann/Keystone via AP)
The first passenger train is leaving the train station towards Taesch, in Zermatt, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Due to heavy snowfall and rain showers, Zermatt was only reachable by air. In the meantime the train track reopened this evening. (Dominic Steinmann/Keystone via AP)

ZERMATT, Switzerland — A train packed with tourists left from a snowbound resort town near Switzerland's famed Matterhorn peak Wednesday, marking the resumption of railway service that had been halted for two days because of avalanche risks and had stranded around 13,000 visitors.

The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn train, with a capacity for 250 people, eased out of Zermatt station after teams cleared huge snowdrifts from the more than a meter (39 inches) of snow that blanketed the region over a one-day period, coating railways and roads.

"After being cut off for almost two days, Zermatt can now be accessed by train again," the local tourism office said. Teams were working "as a matter of urgency" to try to open roads to the bucolic Swiss Alpine town.

The move came as Switzerland's avalanche institute, SLF, lowered the avalanche risk from the highest level, five, to four earlier Wednesday.

Local officials had initially hoped to get trains moving earlier, but the timetable was delayed after helicopter crews spotted a new snow mass left over from an avalanche days earlier.

Mayor Romy Biner-Hauser said "heavier machinery was needed ... and that's why the operation is live only now again." She said she expected roads to be passable sometime Thursday.

A helicopter "air bridge" ferried down hundreds of passengers Tuesday and early Wednesday as ground travel became all but impossible, and other helicopter teams were also deployed to trigger controlled avalanches to release snow buildup.

Frank Techel, an SLF avalanche forecaster, said roughly three to four meters (about 10-13 feet) of snow had been dumped on the Zermatt area so far this year, which he called an "extraordinary" amount for the region in such a short span.

Local officials said no lives were ever in danger and the situation was calm, with cafes open and many streets walkable.

"The guests and local residents weren't placed in any danger at any time — they had power and supplies," the tourism office said.

Some visitors were more upset that nearby ski slopes were closed than getting stranded in the posh, picturesque resort town.

"Unfortunately, no skiing today," said Kurt Tulleners, a visitor from Hong Kong, before the train service resumed. "So yeah, we're just kind of stuck."

___

Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.

Must Read

Obama creates world's largest marine protected area

Aug 26, 2016

President Barack Obama will quadruple in size a marine national monument created by President George W. Bush a decade ago

After bloodshed, NYC promises a safer J'ouvert festival

Sep 4, 2016

For years, there have been complaints about safety at J'ouvert (joo-VAY'), a big, joyous carnival celebrating Caribbean culture held before dawn each Labor Day on the streets of New York City

Weakened Newton brings rain, humidity to Southwest

Sep 7, 2016

Less intense remnants of Tropical Storm Newton brought rain, powerful winds and uncharacteristically high humidity to desert cities in Arizona on Wednesday after pummeling the Mexican resort city of Cabo San Lucas and killing four people

People also read these

Historic commercial flight from US lands in Cuba

Sep 1, 2016

The first commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than a half century landed in the central city of Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, re-establishing regular air service severed at the height of the Cold War

Tropical weather system spares North Carolina's Outer Banks

Aug 31, 2016

North Carolina's Outer Banks have been spared from a tropical storm system that has been moving toward the state for two days, threatening up to 5 inches of rain

Malaysia detains 3 suspected militants, foils attacks

Aug 31, 2016

Malaysian police said Wednesday they had foiled possible attacks on the eve of the country's Independence Day with the detention of three suspected Islamic State members

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH