A Swiss village came within a hair's breadth of being wiped off the map when a mountain towering above it collapsed overnight, officials said Friday.
The massive rockslide missed Brienz in the east of the country, "by a hair", they said.
The rockslide had been expected. The village was emptied of its 84 inhabitants on May 12 after the authorities said the Insel peak had become unstable.
A large part of the Insel finally collapsed before midnight Thursday, sending more than 1.5 million tonnes of rock crashing down in the darkness.
Early Friday morning, the local authorities inspected the damage, and let out a sigh of relief.
"There is no indication of damage in the village, with the rock mass having stopped just in front of the village," they said in a statement.
A metre-high wall of mud and rock came to a halt just in front of the village school.
Some 1.5-1.9 million cubic metres of rock came loose, according to Stefan Schneider, a geologist who heads the early warning service in Graubunden canton.
He told journalists Friday that the rocks had felled trees as if they were matches, and had destroyed a small cabin in a field above the village.
But there was no longer a major risk that a major rockslide could destroy the village, he said.
'Security not guaranteed'
After the rockslide, authorities lifted the highest alert level around midday Friday, making it once again possible to reach villages neighbouring Brienz by train or road.
But Brienz's own inhabitants, who have been in temporary accommodation, will need to wait a bit longer before returning home.
"The village's security is not guaranteed," Andreas Huwiler, the Graubunden cantonal geologist, told reporters.
"We have to monitor the movement of the collapsed rock mass in the coming days. It could still shift, for instance in the case of rain," he said.
But, he added, there is a "very, very big chance" that all the inhabitants will be able to return home.
"This is one of the best days since the evacuation of the villagers," said Daniel Albertin, mayor of the Albula municipality that includes Brienz.
While the inhabitants were spared, the slide forced the Tour de Suisse cycling race to shorten Friday's leg of the race, which had been due to run below the village.
The stage was in the end declared void after news that Swiss rider Gino Maeder had died from the injuries he sustained when he plunged into a ravine a day earlier.