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At least eight missing after mudslide hits village near Swiss-Italian border

Rescue workers have used a helicopter and dogs to search for at least eight people still unaccounted for in a Swiss Alpine valley a day after a mudslide and rockslide hit a small village near the Italian border.

The village of Bondo, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) north of Milan, has been evacuated.

The slide on Wednesday morning sent around four million cubic metres (140 million cubic feet) of material crashing down, causing an impact equivalent to 3.0 on the Richter scale, senior police official Andrea Mittner said.

Police in the canton of Graubuenden said buildings were damaged, and images from the scene showed a trail of destruction left by a river of mud and stone.

Officers initially said there were no injuries.

However, police said on Thursday that they have not been able to reach eight people who may have been in the Bondasca valley at the time of the slide - nationals of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Six of those people have been reported missing by relatives, none of them children.

Mr Mittner said a Swiss army helicopter searched the valley during the night, but found nothing.

On Thursday, workers began searching with dogs but did not immediately find anyone.

A helicopter equipped with a device that can locate mobile phones was also being sent up.

Around 120 people were involved in the operation - police, firefighters, troops and others.

Mr Mittner described the missing people as "Alpinists and walkers".

"These people may have been in the disaster area at the time of the event," he told reporters in the nearby town of Stampa.

"We hope this was not the case, but it is possible that they had an accident."

"We don't know where exactly they are missing," he added.

"The area is around five kilometres (three miles) long."

Early on Thursday afternoon, police received a separate, unverified report that a group of another five or six people may be missing, but "we don't know yet whether this group is missing in this area, or whether these people are missing at all", Mr Mittner said.

An alarm system went off on Wednesday in time to allow for the evacuation of about 100 residents.

Markus Walzer, a Graubuenden police spokesman, said the alarm system was put in place after a similar mudslide in the region five years ago.

He said the weather in the region had been good in recent days, and the cause of the mudslide was not immediately known.

Mr Mittner said that Bondo would remain sealed off until at least Friday morning.

It was not immediately clear when residents might be able to return home.

AP

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