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World War II arms dump could force Swiss town to evacuate for 10 years

A Swiss village may have to evacuate for over a decade while authorities clear a huge World War Two arms dump.

The defence ministry concluded last year that the cache posed an “unacceptable” risk to the nearby people of Mitholz.

Now, authorities say residents may have to leave while they clear the site.




“Depending on how the work develops, residents should expect the evacuation to last up to more than 10 years,” the ministry said.

Residents would have to approve the plan to leave the area. A public consultation is under way to see how best to proceed.

“People live there who have been rooted in the village for generations,” Brigitte Rindlisbacher, chair of the Mitholz working group, reportedly said. “It hurts to see them in this situation.”



Depot explosion in 1947:

The depot partially exploded in 1947, killing nine people and destroying the nearby train station.

But more than 70 years later, about 3,500 tonnes of ammunition remain buried under rock at the site.

The 2018 report said the risks had been underestimated for decades, and removing the explosives could be “very complex”, as rock would probably have to be removed layer by layer.

Officials believe preparing the site for evacuation will take at least ten years as well – including building an emergency road to bypass the area.

Any evacuation for the town’s residents would probably not begin until 2031. Assessors at the dump are due to publish a report on 17 April.

The 800 nearby residents are in shock at the news, Swiss public broadcaster RTS reports.

One person told RTS the plan “makes my stomach ache”, while another said: “If they ask us to leave then they will have to offer us compensation.”




A plan to simply bury the dump under even more rock is also being considered.

Switzerland didn’t fight WWII?

Switzerland has not fought in a war since 1815, including World War Two.

But for four years during the conflict, Switzerland was entirely surrounded by Nazi Germany and its allies. At one point German leader Adolf Hitler even commissioned invasion plans.

In response to the threat, the Swiss called up hundreds of thousands of men. They developed a defensive plan known as the National Redoubt – a series of fortifications deep inside the mountainous country which could be defended against attackers.




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