Skiers lat­est ca­su­al­ties of ex­treme weather in cen­tral Europe

The Irish Times - - World News - DEREK SCALLY

Three Ger­man friends were killed in an avalanche in the Aus­trian alps on Satur­day, the lat­est vic­tims of record snow­fall in the re­gion.

After the hottest sum­mer on record, Aus­tria and Bavaria are in the grip of the worst snow in at least 20 years.

After days of heavy snow­fall, and a tem­po­rary break at the week­end, a fur­ther two me­tres of snow are pre­dicted across the north­ern side of the alps, as au­thor­i­ties fly in sup­plies to cut-off moun­tain towns.

Aus­trian au­thor­i­ties are likely to an­nounce the high­est avalanche warn­ing level to­day.

Three Ger­man men, aged be­tween 32 and 57, were dis­cov­ered dead in the snow in the Vo­rarl­berg re­gion on Satur­day, with a fourth per­son miss­ing. The wife of one of the skiers sounded the alarm on Satur­day evening when they failed to re­turn from a day out.

Suf­fo­ca­tion

Res­cue teams lo­cated them us­ing their mo­bile phone sig­nals but dis­cov­ered three life­less bod­ies with var­i­ous in­juries, in­clud­ing in­di­ca­tions of suf­fo­ca­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties they had left sign­posted ski paths and were most likely trapped in an avalanche. Their emer­gency airbags, de­signed to keep them on the sur­face of an avalanche, ap­pear to have been of lit­tle use. Po­lice yes­ter­day said they were un­sure whether to con­tinue the search for the fourth skier.

“It’s ques­tion­able whether the search can be jus­ti­fied given the huge avalanche dan­ger,” said a po­lice spokesman for the town of Lech in Vo­rarl­berg.

Catas­tro­phe res­cue squads

About 1,000 mem­bers of Aus­tria’s catas­tro­phe res­cue squads have been de­ployed at the week­end. He­li­copter teams used a break in the snowy weather and the week­end to carry out con­trolled ex­plo­sions to trig­ger avalanches in the Steier­mark re­gion.

At­tempts to set off con­trolled ex­plo­sions in the French ski re­sort of Mo­ril­lon ended fa­tally for two men, when they trig­gered their charges by ac­ci­dent.

The ac­ci­dent took place at an al­ti­tude of 1,800m as they were pre­par­ing the pistes, moun­tain res­cuers said.

Bavaria re­mains in the grip of heavy snow with 66 stu­dents air­lifted to safety after be­ing stranded at a ski sta­tion. A nine-year-old boy was killed near Mu­nich when a tree col­lapsed un­der the weight of snow.

Sol­diers and emer­gency work­ers were de­ployed at the week­end to re­move huge quan­ti­ties of snow from large halls likely to be used as emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion. In the Bercht­es­gaden re­gion in par­tic­u­lar the weight of wet snow poses a struc­tural dan­ger for many build­ings.

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