The avalanche catastrophe of 9th February 1984

An eyewitness report

«I was working in the library that afternoon. It was gloomy and after 2 p.m. there was a blackout. Ever since we got the loop wiring system, the mishap never took long. As neophytes we always had to have candles ready for the winter choir. Towards three o’clock I wanted to go and get something at the gate, where I heard that the Placi-avalanche had come down. I looked out of the library’s window and saw something weird: between Placi-church and Disentiserhof dehisced an unfamiliar gap, only a couple of meagre larchs stood out of the emptiness. At tea, rumour had it that the head of the avalanche task force had been buried by the avalanche and that they had found him dead. If you told someone that the bridge of the road and the railway had been ripped off, they smiled at you disbelievingly. Before nightfall I went to see for myself. The degree of damage exceeded everybody’s imagination. A long line of people being evacuated walked out of the hotel Disentiserhof, looking beaten as the Bourbaki-army. When the avalanche went down, at 14:07, all houses were full of people. In the house Schlumpf, 7 people were in the balcony room, the abutting 2/3 of the house were wiped out by the avalanche. The dining room of Disentiserhofes was empty as lunch was over, the avalanche filled the room with snow, hard as concrete, almost up to the ceiling. In the abutting bar, three people were pressed up in snow but could be freed. The person who had used the snow blower to clear away the snow in front of the hotel, just minutes before the avalanche, had gone into the house; afterwards, the machine was buried underneath the fallen trees, just like the 10 cars. No one had been on the parking lot at the time of the catastrophe, except for the garbage collectors filling the lorry in front of the hotel. One of them sought shelter under the lorry, the other jumped into the hutch. God’s providence had saved Disentis from an incalculable catastrophe.»


Source: Schönbächler, P. D. (1984): The avalanche catastrophe of 9th February 1984. In: Disentis, 51. edition, booklet 2. page 2 – 3.