Land under Water!12.10.2011
It's been quite some eventful days not only here at KISC, but also in Kandersteg and the entire Kandertal as well as in the Gasterntal.
Last Saturday, the first snowflakes for this season were falling down on the Centre, but they should quickly turn into heavy snowfall so that by the end of the day, the entire valley was covered under a white blanket. This changed again on Sunday when it got hotter again and snow turned into rain. So much rain in fact that by Monday morning, the Kander had changed its clearness for a brownish shade and swollen to a considerable size. Over the course of the day, so much snow was melting on the surrounding mountains and so much rain was coming down that the Kander eventually left its bed and started flooding the grassy area in front of the Chalet. By lunchtime, it had reached Chalet Over There, one of the Staff flats next to the Centre, and was entering the flat's cellar. Some time later, the water started flowing over the bridge to the Centre instead of under it and the car park was flooded. Not even a digger which was trying to take rocks and trees away that the Kander had washed down from the Gasterntal could really stop this. By that time, the road leading up to Sunnbüel was also underwater and the Swiss army closed the tunnel next to the Campsite entrance and didn't let anyone pass anymore, much to the annoyment of some Pinkies that had gone to the Campsite and weren't allowed to return to the Centre anymore. Back then most of us still thought the water was only a problem at the Centre, little did we know what was going on in the village.
In the afternoon the water was penetrating the basement of the Centre and both Michael (DE), Maintenance Assistant, and Sam (UK), Grounds Assistant, were doing their best to get the pumps running to keep the water out and away from our fuse cupboard. Everyone else was busy helping to get water out with squeegees and blocking doors with blankets. Later on, a power outage occured, a critical moment as the big pumps couldn't work without it. Fortunately, the power was back up after a short while and the pumps could keep the water from rising to high again. After this, we also lost any internet connection, which meant we didn't have access to our booking system and the rest of our computer network. A quick check-up with our internet provider showed that this was not just the case in the Centre but in all of Kandersteg, a problem that has not been solved as of Wednesday morning. KISC and the village bank are the only places in the entire town that have a working internet connection at the moment as they are both running on a separate line. After this, the worst for the Centre seemed to be over as the water was slowly retreating, but no one knew what was exactly going on in the village.
On Tuesday morning, still without internet, the news about what had happened in the rest of the valley had reached the Centre. As it seemed because of the heavy rainfall and the snow melting, even more water than during the flood in 2005 came down the Kander, but thanks to the work that was done during the last years alongside the river in the village, big floodings didn't occur in Kandersteg. Some cellars had to be pumped out by the fire brigade and the tunnel next to the train station was flooded so cars could not pass through it. Some water is still standing in several places in the village, but no big damages were done. Unfortunately this can't be said for everywhere. The Gasterntal is completely cut off from the outside world, people had to be evacuated by the army who are also helping with the cleaning up. The railway tracks from Kandersteg to Frutigen were also flooded and when the water withdrew, it left boulders and rocks on the tracks which is why the railway from Frutigen to Kandersteg is still blocked. The only way in to Kandersteg at the moment is by train via Brig. The reason for this is that further north, in Mitholz, the Kander left its bed to switch to the other side of the valley and passed through the tunnel there, taking away the tarmac of the street thus making the tunnel impassable. At the moment, the Swiss army is working hard on constructing emergency one-way road that is supposed to open on Friday. The village of Mitholz on the other side of the tunnel has been hit very hard by the flooding, the damages there are incredible. Fortunately no people were killed during this disaster.
KISC really has been lucky in the way that the Centre survived the flooding without much harm done, apart from some minor water damages. The mud that the Kander left on the car park and the street to the Centre has already been mostly cleared away and the Centre is fully operational again. This is why we felt it our duty to help out in the village which was struck harder. Several Pinkies, Helpers and the Spanish Work Party joined the clean-up operations in Kandersteg voluntarily on Tuesday afternoon and did a good job together with villagers, the fire brigade and the Swiss army bringing the town back to normal.
What does this mean for guests that have bookings in the near future?
Quite simply, KISC continues to be operational and runs business as usual again now that the internet is back. There could be problems with reaching the Centre by car though, but even this is still possible with the car train from Goppenstein from the south. People travelling here by train will also be able to reach Kandersteg, they should just calculate small delays into their travel plans as the train has to go via Brig and is thus taking longer to get here. If more information is required concerning bookings these next few days or how to get to us, don't hesitate to contact reception via e-mail or via phone.
Make sure to also have a look at the corresponding photo gallery!
Pol Felten (LU)
PR & Marketing Assistant