Switzerland

Rebirth of a Village – Gondo 10 years after the catastrophe

It has been ten years since the landslide in Gondo, that cost 13 villagers their lives, and destroyed a third of the Alpine village. Gondo is a small town, close to the Simplon Pass, right on the border to Italy.

10 years ago, few had even heard of the village, but the events that were to unfold on the 14th October 2000 meant that every Swiss person knew where it was by the end of that fateful day.

Heavy rainfall for three days caused a massive landslide which crashed through the centre of the village, destroying everything in its path. Ten houses, the school, shops, the road and most of the village landmark, the Stockalperturm were swept away in a matter of minutes. The village was cut in half, which greatly hampered rescue attempts. The remaining villagers were evacuated by helicopter, the helicopter pilot will be honoured today in Gondo for his courage.

Of the 160 inhabitants of Gondo, around 100 remain. The school was shut 3 years ago so the children are bussed to the nearby Simplon Dorf.
The Swiss population dug their hands deep into their pockets to donate CHF 12.8million for the reconstruction of the village. This was completed several years ago, and when we passed thought Gondo earlier this year, the newly constructed centre of the village was obvious to see.

One of the most impressive sights, was the reconstruction of the Stockalperturm, and its transformation into a hotel and restaurant. The sleek lines and bare minimalist decor are a surprise in an Alpine village, where checked red table cloths, deer antlers and dark cosy rooms are the normal restaurant style. Before the disaster, about 60 guests a year stayed overnight in Gondo’s guesthouses. Now the hotel attracts over 3000 visitors a year; business seminars, weddings and regular attractions such as a Scottish evening with whisky tasting help to bring visitors to Gondo.

It is a symbol of the village spirit, the determination of the villagers to rebuild their village and their lives.