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Eight still missing as Swiss villagers start to return home after mudslide

Some residents of a village in eastern Switzerland hit by a rocky mudslide have been cleared to return home, police said, as searchers resumed the increasingly desperate hunt for eight missing people.

Police in the region of Graubuenden said the evacuation order was being gradually lifted after Wednesday's rockfall and mudslide in Bondo, on the Italian border about 80 miles north of Milan.

Two Austrians, four Germans and two Swiss remain missing, said police spokeswoman Chiarella Piana.

They had set off separately or in pairs, and were believed to have been hiking in the area of the mudslide, she said.

"The more time wears on, the harder the search becomes," Ms Piana said, adding that the search will continue until they are found or authorities deem it virtually certain they cannot be located.

Police have sealed off air space for a three-mile radius until Monday to give priority access to rescuers, who had suspended the search overnight.

Search teams with dogs fanned out again, and excavators picked through the rubble in the village centre.

In the area hit by the slide, homes were divided into colour-coded red, orange and green zones, Ms Piana said.

Residents in the green areas were allowed to return home, and those in the red zone could briefly re-enter their homes to gather personal belongings.

Authorities said about 4 million cubic metres of rock and mud rolled through the village, prompting the immediate evacuation of about 100 residents.

News reports said some residents feared another mudslide could hit.

AP

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