Avalanche kills three Ger­man skiers with fourth still miss­ing

The Scotsman - - World News - By MAR­GARET NEIGH­BOUR

Three Ger­man skiers have been killed in an avalanche in Aus­tria and a fourth is still miss­ing, po­lice said Sun­day as snow­fall set in again in the north­ern Alps. In France, two ski pa­trollers were killed when the de­vices they use to trig­ger avalanches ex­ploded.

The two ac­ci­dents brought to at least 26 the num­ber of weather-re­lated deaths re­ported in parts of Europe this month.

In Aus­tria, the wife of one of the Ger­man skiers re­ported them miss­ing on Satur­day. The bod­ies of the men, aged 57, 36 and 32, were re­cov­ered later Satur­day evening near the ski re­sort of Lech.

Po­lice in Vo­rarl­berg, Aus­tria’s west­ern­most prov­ince, said they had to call off the search for an­other miss­ing Ger­man skier in the group, age 28, be­cause of heavy snow and the risk of avalanches.

Po­lice said the four friends had ap­par­ently skied on to a trail that was closed. Al­though they had avalanche pro­tec­tion equip­ment and de­ployed airbags, the vic­tims were buried by the avalanche and suf­fered mul­ti­ple in­juries.

They were lo­cated with the help of moble phone track­ing. Last week, fol­low­ing the death of an Aus­tralian school­boy on hol­i­day with his fam­ily in western Aus­tria, the Aus­trian min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for tourism, Elis­a­beth Koestinger, said: “In most ski­ing ar­eas, there is no rea­son for con­cern at present if peo­ple keep to the rules and don’t leave the se­cured slopes”.

In France, the Haute-savoie re­gion’s high moun­tain gen­darmerie said the two ski pa­trollers were killed yes­ter­day morn­ing in Mo­ril­lon be­fore ski slopes were opened to the pub­lic.

French po­lice say the two were killed when the de­vices they use to trig­ger avalanches ex­ploded as they were se­cur­ing the slopes at a ski re­sort in the French Alps.

Ski pa­trollers are in charge of pre­vent­ing po­ten­tial dan­gers to skiers, no­tably by trig­ger­ing con­trolled avalanches with pow­er­ful ex­plo­sive charges.

The risk of an avalanche was es­ti­mated at “high” yes­ter­day in Mo­ril­lon, with a rat­ing of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 fol­low­ing a heavy snow­fall overnight.

Au­thor­i­ties in south­ern Ger­many and Aus­tria had used a break in the weather to clear heavy loads of snow from roofs and roads, but snow set in again on Satur­day night.

In the Bavar­ian town of Kempten, au­thor­i­ties closed 11 sports halls un­til to­mor­row fear­ing the that the weight of snow on their roofs was pos­ing in­creas­ing dan­gers, the Ger­man news agency dpa re­ported.

The small Alpine re­sort of Balder­schwang on Ger­many’s bor­der with Aus­tria was cut off yes­ter­day af­ter the pass lead­ing to it was closed for fear of avalanches. In cen­tral Switzer­land, trains car­ry­ing cars through the Furka tun­nel were sus­pended be­cause of an avalanche on a nearby road.

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