Twenty killed in plane crash in Swiss Alps

UNTV News   •   August 6, 2018   •   2606

A helicopter is seen above the accident site of a Junkers Ju-52 airplane of the local airline JU-AIR that is 2,450 meters (8,038 feet) above sea level near the mountain resort of Flims, Switzerland August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

FLIMS, Switzerland (Reuters) – All 20 people on board were killed when a small vintage plane crashed in the Swiss Alps, police said on Sunday.

Three Austrians and 17 Swiss were on board the trimotor JU-52 aircraft, built in the late 1930’s as a military aircraft and later used to operate scenic and charter flights, when it crashed shortly before 5 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Saturday on the west side of the Piz Segnas mountain in the canton of Grissons.

The plane had been returning from Locarno near Switzerland’s southern border.

Police said those killed were couples from the Swiss cantons of Zurich, Thurgau, Lucerne, Schwyz, Zug and Vaud, along with a three-member family from Austria and three crew members from Thurgau and Zurich.

“Yesterday was the worst day in the 36-year history of JU-Air,” the airline’s Chief Executive Kurt Waldmeier said at a news conference in nearby Flims on Sunday. “We have all suffered a very great loss.”

Police said they were not aware of any distress call and had not yet determined the cause of the crash, which occurred hours after a family of four was killed when their small plane went down further west in the Alps.

The investigation, complicated by the vintage plane’s lack of a “black box” flight recorder, will take several days.

“One can ascertain that the aircraft hit the ground nearly vertically at high speed,” Daniel Knecht, who heads the aviation division of the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board, said.

Established in 1982, JU-Air offered sightseeing, charter and adventure flights with its three mid-century Junkers Ju-52 aircraft decommissioned by the Swiss Air Force and known affectionately in German as “Auntie Ju” planes.

It was the first time the airline had experienced an accident that resulted in death or injury to passengers or crew members, Waldmeier said. The airline suspended flights until further notice.

The plane that crashed had its last maintenance check in late July, Waldmeier said, at which time no defects had been found.

The wreckage of the plane was in a basin at 2,450 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level surrounded on three sides by peaks, a Reuters witness said. Rescuers and helicopters were at the scene.

The airspace above the crash site was closed by the Federal Office for Civil Aviation and access to popular hiking trails in the surrounding area was blocked.

Reporting by Michael Shields, Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, and Arnd Wiegmann; Editing by Janet Lawrence

Switzerland reopens its border to Italians as coronavirus travel restrictions ease

UNTV News   •   June 15, 2020

The Italian-Swiss border reopened on Monday (June 15) allowing people living in the border towns of Como and Chiasso to freely cross the border which separates the two countries.

A long line of cars carrying Italian cross-border commuters working in the Italian-speaking southern canton of Ticino reached Switzerland through the border of Chiasso as coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions across Europe are gradually eased.

It is hoped the opening of borders with fellow European Union countries could help salvage the summer season for the country’s battered travel and tourism industry.

The Schengen area of 22 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland operates control-free crossings, but they have been mostly closed for three months to all but goods traffic and critical workers.

Before the crisis, an average of 3.5 million people crossed an internal EU border every day, according to a European Parliament report last year, some 1.7 million of the commuting to work. (Reuters)

(Production: Alex Fraser, Gabriele Pileri, Fabiano Franchitti)

Coronavirus divides lovers, friends at Swiss-German border fences

UNTV News   •   April 6, 2020

Constance, Germany, and Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, are divided cities these days, with a strip of grass and two fences separating them after the countries closed their borders to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a park on Lake Constance’s shoreline residents of both cities normally move freely across an invisible line marking where one nation ends and the other begins. But everything has changed: Most Germans cannot come to Switzerland, most Swiss are barred from Germany.

On Sunday, lovers, brothers and sisters, parents and their children, and old friends pressed against the chain links in the spring sunshine, just close enough to say “I love you”, too far apart to touch.

“This is our only chance to stand across from each other, face-to-face,” said Jean-Pierre Walter, a Swiss who drove an hour from Zurich to see his German partner, Maja Bulic. “We can at least speak to each other. That’s something.”

For weeks, they have telephoned or spoken over FaceTime. But fiber optic is no substitute for flesh and blood.

“At some point, you have to see somebody in person,” said Bulic, who drove 2-1/2 hours from near Heidelberg. “It’s difficult, but I know one day it will be different.”

This is a coronavirus no-man’s land. It traces the route of a barbed wire-topped barrier that split Switzerland and Germany during World War Two and that was removed long ago.

The fences have become a meeting point for people divided by the epidemic – and a reminder of its disruption for Europeans accustomed to traveling where they please. Switzerland is not in the European Union, but agreements allow Swiss and the bloc’s citizens to travel virtually unfettered, in normal times. (REUTERS CONNECT)

Firefighting plane crash kills 3 in Australia

UNTV News   •   January 23, 2020

Workers try to put out a bushfire behind a row of factories near West Queenbeyan, Australia, Jan.23, 2020. EFE-EPA/MICK TSIKAS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Sydney, Australia – Three people were killed when a water-bombing plane fighting bushfires crashed into a large fireball in Australia on Thursday amid rising temperatures that have further fueled the blazes in the country.

The New South Wales authorities said the C-130 Hercules tanker aircraft went down in the Snowy Monaro area, south of the Australian capital, Canberra, in the afternoon.

“Three people have lost their lives after a large tanker crashed. Our thoughts and prayers and heartfelt condolences go to their families,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

She said the disaster was a “stark and horrible” indication that the fire season in Australia was far from over and the “dangerous work” being undertaken to control the blazes.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the contact with the aircraft was lost shortly before 1.30 pm.

“Tragically, there appear to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area. It has impacted heavily with the ground.

“Initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said there was “no indication at this stage on what caused the accident”.

The victims in the plane crash were not immediately identified but the commissioner said all three aboard were residents of the United States.

Canberra Airport was closed on Thursday after the Australian authorities once again activated its fire alert over rising temperatures, which in some places exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.

The flights arriving in and departing from the country’s ninth busiest airport in terms of the number of passengers were suspended around midday due to a fire raging nearby, the airport said in a statement on social media.

The authorities once again activated its fire alert on Thursday over rising temperatures, which in some places exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.

In the Sydney region, where the mercury reached 41 degrees, it is feared that severe heat conditions, strong winds, and potential storms could aggravate the situation.

Strong winds in the mountains posed an increased risk of fires, said the meteorology bureau of New South Wales, the capital of which is Sydney, and. Some 84 fires, 40 of them uncontrolled, are burning in the region.

“There’s every potential for flare-ups and new ignitions to come out of some of these fire grounds,” Fitzsimmons said.

The authorities in the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra, were also on alert against the danger of fires before temperatures begin to fall again on Friday.

Bushfires, which have been raging since September and which worsened on New Year’s Eve, have claimed 32 lives and affected more than 1 billion animals.

The fires have razed more than 2,500 homes and 180,000 square kilometers (some 69,500 square miles) of land, an area equivalent to the size of Syria.

These fires, which experts say have been more intense this year due to global warming, have emitted so far 400 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an amount equivalent to the country’s average annual emissions, according to the global environment monitoring program Copernicus.

A survey by the Australia Institute published on Thursday found that 57 percent of the people surveyed across the country of 24.6 million inhabitants felt the impact of fires and smoke, while 26 percent experienced health problems as a result.

The report also underlined that about 1.8 million people were unable to work because of the fires, and the loss in productivity was estimated at AU$1.3 billion ($894 million).

“Australia is in the grip of a national climate disaster. The social, economic and medical impacts are vast and only just starting to become clear,” said Tom Swann, a senior researcher at the Australia Institute. EFE-EPA

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