BERN, Switzerland - Torrential rains turned a popular Alpine walk into a death trap Sunday when three people, including two American tourists, were swept to their deaths by a freak mudslide.
Police spokesman Juerg Mosimann said the victims were part of a 20-member, largely American, group on an organized mountain walk in an area much loved by the foreign tourists who throng to the resort of Grindelwald.
''It was a perfectly normal walk. Thousands of people do it every year,'' Mosimann said.
The mudslide occurred as the group made its way at an altitude of about 6,600 feet from the First Grindelwald mountain to the Grosse Scheidegg - a route described by tourist brochures as romantic and flower-filled.
But the walk turned into tragedy when an overhang soaked by recent heavy rains about 50 feet above the walk broke and slammed into the group, trapping five of them, according to rescue services.
''The earth just slid down like a 20-meter-wide (20-yard-wide) carpet,'' Grindelwald rescue chief Kurt Amacher told The Associated Press. ''The path had been classed as a completely harmless one which was possible even in bad weather.''
Two people managed to free themselves with only minor scrapes but three more were swept 66 feet down into a swollen mountain stream, where their bodies were found.
One of the dead was a local guide who reportedly had 30 years experience.
Amacher said the other two dead were thought to be American, but added there was no final confirmation.
However, a Swiss television reporter said other members of the party said the victims were a father and son from Conway in New Hampshire. They had been at the front of the group.
The remaining hikers were airlifted back to their Grindelwald hotel for counseling.
Heavy rains have fallen in Switzerland in recent days, causing landslides, swelling rivers and flooding highways in some parts of the country.
The tragedy occurred in the Berner Oberland mountain range, not far from the area where 21 young people on a canyoning adventure drowned in a flash flood one year ago when a storm turned a relatively calm brook into a raging torrent.