21 dead as worst snow in 30 years en­gulfs Eu­rope

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - TALK OF THE TOWN - By Nick Craven

A STATE of emer­gency was in force across parts of Eu­rope last night af­ter the death toll in the worst snow­fall for at least 30 years reached 21.

Tanks and troops were drafted in to res­cue home­own­ers from neck­deep snow in Ger­many and Aus­tria as the whi­te­out looked to con­tinue past the week­end.

Ir­ish skiers were among thou­sands fac­ing long de­lays on their air­port trans­fers to and from re­sorts in Aus­tria due to road con­di­tions, but travel in­dus­try sources said they had heard no re­ports of Ir­ish peo­ple snowed in or trapped.

In Switzer­land, a 300 me­tre-wide avalanche ploughed through the front of a ho­tel while din­ers were eat­ing. Three peo­ple were in­jured but mirac­u­lously there were no deaths.

Parts of Eu­rope have been paral­ysed in re­cent days with the snow cut­ting off re­mote moun­tain vil- lages and dis­rupt­ing trans­port. Avalanche warn­ings were at crit­i­cal lev­els.

The state of emer­gency was de­clared across much of south­ern Ger­many, with sol­diers de­ployed to help trapped peo­ple. The army was also called in across Al­ba­nia, Mon­tene­gro and Ser­bia.

‘Such quan­ti­ties of snow above 800m al­ti­tude only hap­pen once ev­ery 30 to 100 years,’ said Aus­trian me­te­o­rol­o­gist Alexan­der Radl­herr. Aus­trian mil­i­tary he­li­copters on Fri­day res­cued 66 Ger­man teenagers out of a moun­tain guest house where they had been trapped for sev­eral days.

The snow is up to three me­tres deep in parts of the coun­try, where seven peo­ple have died in the past week. Two hik­ers have also been miss­ing since last Satur­day.

The mil­i­tary used he­li­copters to blow snow off tree­tops to re­duce the risk of trees fall­ing on to roads and train tracks.

Swe­den and Nor­way were hit by sim­i­lar prob­lems, while three din­ers were in­jured when an avalanche came down the Sch­wä­galp Pass in the Swiss Alps and crashed into the Ho­tel San­tis.

One guest in the ho­tel restau­rant said that ini­tially he thought snow was fall­ing from the roof. ‘There was a gi­gan­tic noise and the back area of the restau­rant was en­gulfed in masses of snow,’ the guest told me­dia.

In Ger­many’s south­ern state of Bavaria, a nine-year-old boy was killed by a tree which col­lapsed un­der the weight of snow. It was 40 min­utes be­fore he was found and emer­gency ser­vices were un­able to re­vive him.

The blan­ket of snow is ex­pected to re­main into the mid­dle of next week through­out cen­tral and north­ern Eu­rope.

Mean­while, Met Eire­ann fore­cast­ers said that sud­den strato­spheric warm­ing in early Jan­uary has in­creased the like­li­hood of a cold snap in this coun­try later this month.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Gerry Mur­phy said: ‘Sud­den strato­spheric warm­ing at the start of the month can some­times bring cold weather to this part of the world, but that does not mean it will hap­pen. It de­pends on many fac­tors and it’s just too far away to pre­dict.’

EMER­GENCY: Res­cue teams in the Bavar­ian Alps yes­ter­day

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