French engineers drain glacier’s lake to save Saint Gervais

Saint Gervais, France (GenevaLunch) – The 3,000 residents in the French valley of Saint Gervais (map) love their mountains most of the time, with the Alps, including Mont Blanc, making the area a tourist attraction. But nervousness set in, in late July 2010, when a lake with no outlet was discovered under the Tête-Rousse glacier: 65,000m3 of water that could flood the valley. This week, engineers began drilling a hole to drain the lake and avoid a possible catastrophe.

The glacier is at 3,200 metres altitude. Given the uncertainty of the drilling results the town has set up a glacier alert system, with sirens to warn the population of problems.

In 1892, a flood killed 175 people in the area. The water pocket that has been forming could burst if left alone, say the town’s authorities, carrying ice, mud and rock with it into the valley’s 900 homes.

Links to other sites: BCC, France Info (Fre), information for tourists, climbers in St Gervais