The Latest: Zermatt tourists get helicopter evacuations

The Latest on the thousands of tourists stranded in the Swiss ski town of Zermatt, near the Matterhorn (all times local):

3:45 p.m.

A Swiss police official says authorities in Zermatt near the famed Matterhorn peak have begun an "air bridge" by helicopter to bring down tourists who have been stranded by the thousands after roads and rail service were suspended because of an elevated avalanche risk.

The Zermatt police department official said the air bridge would be provided to tourists requesting an exit by the 3-minute helicopter flight from the town at the foot of the Alpine peak down to the nearby village of Taesch.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said Tuesday that about 100 people could be evacuated per hour, conditions permitting. Some 13,000 tourists are now stranded in Zermatt.

Officials said roads and rail lines were covered in snow. One local hotelier said authorities were setting off controlled explosions to help clear away piled up snow.

— By Jamey Keaten

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2 p.m.

Swiss authorities near the famed Matterhorn peak have closed ski slopes, hiking trails, cable cars, roads and train service into the nearby town of Zermatt amid a heightened risk of avalanches, stranding some 13,000 tourists in the town.

Janine Imesch of the Zermatt tourism office says power has been restored in the town and no people were at risk because authorities shuttered access to the nearby ski slopes and hiking trails a day earlier. Imesch says Tuesday "there is nothing to panic about, everything is fine."

The office's website earlier indicated that arrivals and departures from the town were not possible. It noted a "power breakdown all over Zermatt" and called on people to "stay at home" so as not to disrupt snow clearing crews.