Four die in car crushed by Austrian avalanche

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The Independent Online

A German couple and their two children were crushed to death inside their car yesterday when they were engulfed by an avalanche in the Austrian Alps.

A German couple and their two children were crushed to death inside their car yesterday when they were engulfed by an avalanche in the Austrian Alps.

The accident, on a road cutting across Tyrol, came on the second anniversary of the avalanches in the region of Galtür, about 80km westward, in which 38 people were killed.

The Tyrol avalanche hit a 300m section of road about 50 km south-west of Innsbruck, near the town of Obergurgl. Three cars were recovered from under the snow, including the wreckage containing the German parents and their son, 12, and daughter, 10. Two other people inside another car were slightly injured.

About 100 rescue workers searched the area with metal detectors, but found no other trapped vehicles. But two smaller avalanches nearby blocked another road and temporarily trapped people in two cars. They managed to free themselves without injury, however.

After heavy snowfalls overnight, most mountain roads in Tyrol, and two other Alpine provinces, Vorarlberg and Salzburg, were passable only in vehicles equipped with snow chains. The authorities issued a level-four avalanche warning in Tyrol, one short of the maximum level.

Thousands of holidaymakers in the exclusive ski resorts of Zürs and Lech were cut off from the outside world when approach roads were closed due to avalanche danger.

North of the city of Graz, about 30 vehicles piled into each other in an accident on the country's main north-south motorway. One person was seriously injured, 10 slightly.

In the southern province of Carinthia, a popular tourist region, up to 30cm (12in) of snow was reported to have fallen. Gale-force winds loosened the snow cover and experts warned that avalanches could be triggered at the slightest pressure. The severe conditions were set to continue for the weekend.

In Vorarlberg, the avalanche danger increased significantly, particularly in exposed off-piste areas. Three snowboarders at the resort of Silvretta-Nova, Montefon, were rescued late on Thursday after they became trapped in difficult terrain.

Some neighbouring countries also reported extreme weather conditions. In the Czech Republic, Prague international airport was closed, while Slovakia reported snowstorms in the north of the country.

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