Landslide washes away Swiss house, police search for those still missing

GENEVA (AFP) - Swiss police said Sunday four people had been rescued but others were believed to be missing after a landslide hit their small apartment building in the rain-drenched southern Ticino region.

Regional police said one of numerous landslides to hit the widely flooded area had swept away a three-story residential building in Davesco-Soragno, near Lugano, just before 2.30 am (9.30am Singapore time).

Three people were rescued and taken to hospital with minor injuries, while a fourth had returned home after the fact and was not hurt, Ticino police said in a statement.

Police did not say how many more people were thought to have been in the building at the time, but Italian-language Swiss public broadcaster RSI reported four people were believed to be missing.

Geologists had deemed the area safe enough to begin searching for the missing, police said, adding that municipal and regional police were being helped in the mission by the fire brigade, civil protection units and a special dog unit.

After weeks of heavy rains, southern Ticino has been hit by severe flooding, which worsened after Lake Lugano burst its banks in several places and Lake Maggiore threatened to do the same.

On Sunday morning, the main road to Davesco was closed, as were a number of other roads around Lake Lugano, the ATS news agency reported.

Another landslide reportedly forced the evacuation of residents in Chiasso.

Switzerland's national meteorology institute told ATS Saturday that the region had been drenched with between 50 and 70 millimetres of rain in a 24-hour period.

The deluge had already in recent days closed a number of roads, flooded basements and forced evacuations of medical patients in the area.

Last week, a landslide swept away a house in the Lugano region, killing a mother and her young child.

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