Skiers had been stranded in the resort because of heavy snowfall and exceptional risk of avalanches
Helicopters have airlifted stranded holidaymakers from the upmarket Swiss ski resort of Zermatt after about 13,000 tourists were trapped in the mountain village for two days by heavy recent snowfall and an exceptional risk of avalanches.
Local police said the airlift was taking about 100 people an hour who urgently needed to leave Zermatt to the nearby village of Tsch, a three minute flight, from where rail replacement buses were available for their onward journey.
The resort said on its website that ski slopes, hiking paths and cable cars around the village remained closed. It advised people to follow instructions and stay at home so as not to hamper the ongoing clear-up operation.
A spokeswoman for the well-known winter sports resort near the Matterhorn mountain, Janine Imesch, said there was no immediate risk to around 13,000 tourists who remained there, approaching Zermatts maximum capacity.
Imesch said electricity in the village had now been restored after an earlier power cut, although the resort continued to warn of possible power breakdowns all over Zermatt. A further update was expected at 7pm local time.
Everything is normal, everything is under control, Imesch told the Guardian. People are enjoying the snow, going shopping, eating and drinking. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. No one can go skiing or hiking, but its quiet, even a little bit romantic.
Ben Kendall, who works for the Zermatt Bergbahnen cable car company, said people who had to leave were able to and the resort was catering very well for the rest. We had another fresh dumping of snow today, so trains still arent running. Tourists cannot drive into Zermatt anyway. Ski lifts should be open tomorrow, weather permitting, he said.
The access road to the car-free mountain village, which has a resident population of about 5,500, was closed on Monday morning because of the extreme avalanche risk and trains have been unable to reach the station since 5.30pm on Monday.
The avalanche risk around Zermatt and several other resorts in the south-western Valais region, including Saas-Fee, was raised to its maximum level of five on Monday night, the regions president, Romy Biner-Hauser, said.