13,000 tourists stranded in Alps
Unusually heavy snowfall and a high risk of Alpine avalanches have stranded 13,000 tourists in the Swiss resort of Zermatt at the base of the famed Matterhorn mountain.
With nearby roads, trains, cable cars, ski slopes and hiking trails into the town closed, authorities deployed helicopters to ferry some tourists to a nearby village to escape the snowbound Alpine valley.
A police official in Zermatt, a tourist magnet for backpackers and millionaires alike, said the helicopter journey to the village of Taesch took around three minutes.
The official said the so-called air bridge could transport about 100 people an hour, conditions permitting, although it was not an official evacuation.
Romy Biner, head of Zermatt town council, told SRF the airlift was for guests who urgently needed to leave and to bring in supplies. "It surprised us a bit this year and we're trying to make the best of it," Ms Biner said.