Floods kill three in Switzerland

Three people died and hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes as Switzerland and its neighbors struggled with flooding after days of torrential rainfall in the northern Alps.

As swollen alpine rivers fed waterways in neighboring countries, rivers burst their banks in Austria and Germany on Tuesday and mud slides blocked roads and railway tracks.

One person was killed when a swollen stream tore down eight houses in the central Swiss city of Brienz and a second flooding victim was found drowned in a river in another town.

In southern Tyrol in Austria, a rockslide caused by the flooding killed one man, reports Reuters.

According to the AP, Switzerland must allow rivers to flow naturally to help prevent more flooding, a leading international environmental group said Tuesday.

Switzerland, like many of its central and eastern European neighbors, has suffered from torrential rainfalls in the past two days that have caused at least five deaths in the Alpine country and cut off several villages from the outside world.

"The flooding in Switzerland has caused enormous destruction ... the long-standing practice to force rivers into a narrow straitjacket has failed," the Worldwide Fund for Nature said in a statement. "The current high water in Switzerland once again underlines the importance of giving rivers and streams enough room," it added.

The environmental group called on Switzerland to allow rivers to flow more naturally and thereby enable them to absorb high water levels more easily.

The draining of marshlands (mostly for agricultural purposes) results in harder, less porous ground. The straightening of rivers and their often artificial banks gives them less capacity to absorb high water levels.

WWF said the legal framework to allow some rivers to return to a more natural state was already in place, but politicians lacked the will and the sense of urgency.

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