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Damaged Swiss Bridge to Reopen in February

August 29, 1993|KIM UPTON

The nearly 700-year-old Chapel Bridge--the tourist attraction in Lucerne, Switzerland, that was almost completely demolished by fire Aug. 18--will be rebuilt and reopen in February in time for Carnival, according to Swiss officials. The fire also destroyed most of the 111 historical paintings that had decorated the covered wooden bridge's gables since the early 17th Century. While 33 of the paintings were untouched or are in good enough condition for restoration, the remainder will need to be repainted from photographs. A 13th-Century octagonal stone water tower that stood at one end of the bridge was saved due to the efforts of some 150 firemen who fought the flames from the riverbanks, even though the central section of the bridge collapsed into the Ruess River below. Swiss officials estimate the cost to rebuild the bridge, not including the paintings, will range from $1.5 to $2 million.

Built in 1333 and extensively renovated 25 years ago, the bridge formed part of the old city's defensive wall, much of which still stands. The historic paintings on the bridge's roof depicted the history of the city and of Switzerland. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, according to government officials.

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Travel Quiz: What continent comprises nearly one-tenth of the Earth's land surface?

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Flights to Nigeria Stopped: In an unusual move, the Department of Transportation has halted direct air service between the United States and Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, because of problems with "the safety and security of passengers, aircraft and crew," according to a DOT spokesman. The suspension follows Federal Aviation Administration attempts, beginning last October, to help the government of Nigeria improve airport security procedures--generally believed to involve passenger and baggage screening, not such things as the condition of the runways--although DOT would not confirm the exact nature of the security deficiencies. The ban effects direct flights by Nigeria Airways and American Trans Air, but does not bar U.S. citizens or travel agents from arranging travel to Lagos through Europe or Africa. This is the first time DOT has suspended travel to any destination for airport security reasons, according to the spokesman. While DOT cannot prohibit U.S. citizens from traveling to an area, this move is generally considered a warning not to use the airport for the time being.

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Quick Fact: Bathrobes are in order for guests at the Mayfair Hotel in Manhattan, which is the city's first to offer video phones. The phones allow callers to see the people they are calling in other rooms who also have video phones. The phones are available only on request.

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MarkAir Expands, Goes Coach-Only: MarkAir, the Alaska-based carrier with flights into several West Coast cities, will expand Sept. 7 when it adds Los Angeles-Denver and San Diego-Seattle daily nonstop flights, with connecting service to Chicago and New York. In addition, MarkAir has just finished converting its entire fleet to coach-only seats. This enabled the airline to remove the first-class cabin and add 10 additional seats to each aircraft. The move was made, according to an airline spokesman, because most passengers in first-class were on upgraded tickets rather than actually having paid first-class rates.

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Rescue Insurance for Climbers: The National Park Service will probably test a plan next spring that would require climbers to buy private-rescue insurance policies when they register to climb or enter the back country. Sites for the pilot program would be Alaska's Denali National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. Under the plan, climbers who are rescued but have not bought such a policy might be billed for their rescue. Although the idea has been discussed for a number of years, last year's $405,000 tab for 22 rescues at Denali's Mt. McKinley--the country's highest peak--and the 11 fatalities there, prompted further study, which the Park Service said is inspired by concerns for public safety as well as economics. Such a plan would not apply to children who become lost or separated from their parents. There are no plans, as of yet, to institute the program in all national parks that have climbing or back-country hiking.

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