Gurtnellen Blasting


At 06.45 on 31 May 2006, without any warning whatsoever, an estimated 10,000 tons of rock thundered down into the valley at Gurtnellen, on Switzerland’s main north-south Gotthard route. Some fell on to the motorway and the parallel main cantonal road. Initial geological inspection showed that there was no risk of further falls and it was planned to reopen the motorway three days later. However, more rockfalls did follow, forcing closure of the roads for an indefinite period. Closer inspection revealed that the rock face was still moving and sections would have to be blasted free.

Pressure was on to reopen the important north-south artery to traffic with as little delay as possible. Following specialist planning, helicopters were brought in to fly men, machines and materials on to the 1400m-high ledge to carry out the hazardous task of blasting.  All-in-all, 55 flights were made, also involving the transport of felled trees. With preparations complete, 1.50 tons of explosives were ignited on Friday 23 June. The meticulously-planned explosion pattern split the rock face into small blocks and no large boulders landed on the roads below. After the completion of clearing work and further safety inspections, the roads were finally reopened on 27 June 2006.

As these photos show, the blasting was followed by a large number of spectators and television coverage from across the valley. The enterprising restaurant owner dished up a menu of the day, complete with a piece of rock as a souvenir! 
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