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Weather Catastrophes

by Theresa König last modified 2007-11-08 10:39

The community of Vandans was always a region prone to catastrophes because of its location.  It wasn‘t until the 20th century that construction was started to protect the area.  There are no traces left of the terrible events that took place back then, but there is plenty of documentation and eye witness accounts.1

Weather catastrophes / Flood water protection wall, Mustergielbach

The village of Vandans is located on the screes from four mountain streams, one of which is the Mustergielbach.  The name Vandans comes from the Rhaeto-Romanic description of the area “ad fontanas” which means “near the water”. 2  Because of the dangerous location, the village was often the victim of weather calamities before the construction of the torrent diversions was started.  The steepness of the land and the geological features of the drainage area of the Mustergielbach make it a dangerous body of water.3  The oldest report about a devastating flood is from the year 1764.  Back then the water that nowadays flows into a large ballast bed, overflowed out of the original bed and ran into the Ill River at seven different places, flooding and destroying many fertile estates.4   But it wasn’t only the Mustergielbach that flooded.  The Rellsbach or Almustrik and the Ladritschbach all flooded Vandans.  All that was left of the village was rubble and devastation.  On top of all that, the government couldn’t help the villagers because it happened during the 7 year war and there was no money available for natural catastrophes.5

Because of the repeated mud slides and the enormous amount of damage caused by it, construction was started in the settled area in 1902.  In 1933 there was another mud slide in the Mustergielbach.  Without the existing structures a large amount of debris would probably have made its way into the valley.  The structures are barriers that curb the flow of debris as well as channelling structures and dams to protect against flooding from the stream bed.  The walls that are visible here make up stone barriers that funnel into a concrete control unit.  Their function is to hinder flooding and regulate the drifting gravel.6

Today the citizens of Vandans don’t have to worry about mudslides or floods anymore from the local streams.  They have been regulated and now you can build a house in places where in earlier days you would have been declared as crazy for doing so.

These events happened in the recent past and modern day man can explain the catastrophes with the help of science.  Long ago people had other explanations for those types of events even though man himself was often to blame for the disasters because of his frivolous and extravagant way of life.  An example of this is the legend about the sunken city of Pravalanz which we heard at the 5th station.  This was probably caused by a landslide that buried the city beneath it.  The people, though, blamed it on the immoral behaviour of the citizens of Prazalanz.  Legends create an “archive of ancient stories about a nation” or put in another way – legends are dramatised superstitions.7  Today we know that a pious prayer can give you hope but it cannot stop a landslide.  In this case it is better to trust a solid flood and mud slide barrier.


1 vgl. z. B. Berichte von Alois Schoder, Archiv Montafoner Museen, Vandans/Bilder 1/3.1. „Notzeiten, Hochwasser“

2 vgl. Barbisch 1987: 88; Vandans News 2001: 8

3 vgl. A.M.M. (1/1.3.)

4 vgl. Barbisch (1987: 20)

5 vgl. Schoder (1962)

6 vgl. A.M.M. (1/1.3.)

7 vgl. E. Hoffmann-Krayer, H. Bächtold-Stäubli nach Köhler


P10-1_Weather catastrophes.mp3

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