Skiers killed by avalanche in Austrian Tyrol

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The Independent Online

Avalanches claimed the lives of four skiers in the Austrian Tyrol yesterday in a series of snow slides. The accidents come little more than a week after 155 skiers died in Austria's biggest skiing disaster when their train caught fire inside a tunnel in the Kitzsteinhorn Mountain in Kaprun resort near Salzburg.

Avalanches claimed the lives of four skiers in the Austrian Tyrol yesterday in a series of snow slides. The accidents come little more than a week after 155 skiers died in Austria's biggest skiing disaster when their train caught fire inside a tunnel in the Kitzsteinhorn Mountain in Kaprun resort near Salzburg.

Three Germans died yesterday near the resort of Obergurgl in the Otztal, close to the Italian border, after an avalanche of freshly fallen snow buried their group. One, who was pulled out of the mass of snow by rescue workers who were helped by specially trained dogs, died on the way to hospital.

Five others who were only partially blanketed by the snow slide were able to free themselves.

While the rescue effort was under way, another avalanche at nearby Hochburgl buried a ski piste. Witnesses said one person had been trapped underneath, but helicopter crews reported three ski tracks into and out of the area. The search was continuing last night.

An avalanche in Gölbner took place hours later, only a few miles away in eastern Tyrol. The slide, which roared down a mountainside without warning, killed an Austrian skier. Six others with his party were able to dig themselves out.

The accidents occurred at a time when skiers were attracted to the resorts because of near-perfect conditions, with early snow and sunshine. The immense quantity of new snow, however, has created a high level of avalanche danger.

The tiny resort of Obergurgl, south of Innsbruck, is very isolated and is located nearly nearly 10,000ft above sea level. Witnesses said the Germans, aged in their twenties and all belonging to a ski club in Mannheim, had ignored avalanche warnings and skied on pistes that had been closed.

The Austrian news agency APA reported that the Obergurgl avalanche had been triggered by the skiers themselves. The group in Gölbner is also believed to have caused the accident in which they were involved.

About 100 members of the regional mountain rescue services, aided by tourists and skiers, searched in Oberburgl for survivors through snow 18ft deep before recovering the bodies of two men and a woman. A fourth person was still missing last night.

Avalanche warnings have been in place throughout eastern Austria, following heavy snows in recent days.

Last year, avalanches killed 39 people in Austria.

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