Swiss mountains light up in a national day celebration to suit COVID-19 era


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© Reuters. The mountain chains of Veisivi and Dent de Perroc are illuminated to celebrate Swiss National Day in Evolene

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By John Revill and Denis Balibouse

EVOLENE, Switzerland (Reuters) – A section of the Alps turned amber on Friday night in a massive pyrotechnic display as Switzerland marked its national day with an event suited to COVID-19 and social distancing rules.

The mountain chains of Veisivi and Dent de Perroc, which tower nearly 4,000 metres (13,000 feet)in the southern canton of Wallis, saw more than 100 kg (220 lbs) of magnesium powder ignited in the event.

Although Swiss National Day is on Aug. 1, many people celebrate the night before. The date marks the foundation of Switzerland in 1291.

The show, which illuminated 12 square km (4.6 square miles) of the mountains, was visible from 20 km (12 miles) away.

“It is like 100 million candles being lit on the mountains and gives them a lovely warm glow,” said organiser Jacques Morard, who runs Jimagine, an events company in Montreux.

“Lots of people around Switzerland normally have fireworks to celebrate our national day, but they weren’t able to this year because of distancing regulations.”

Gatherings of more than 1,000 people are currently banned to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Thousands of spectators gathered in the Evolene valley below to see the three-minute long display, at a safe distance from each other.

The show followed a similar display in 2015, when magnesium powder was used to turn mountains red for the anniversary of Wallis joining Switzerland, an event also organised by Morard.

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Morard, 62, said many events he was organising this year had to be cancelled because of COVID-19.

“As a Swiss person I am very proud to have an idea which works to mark our national day, and bring some joy even in this terrible situation,” Morard added.

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