Avalanches in Alps Kill at Least 11, as Weather Hampers Rescues
BERLIN — Avalanches killed at least 11 people over the weekend, the authorities and rescuers in Austria, Italy and Switzerland said, as efforts to get victims to safety were hampered by weather.
A combination of heavy snowfall and strong winds led to avalanche warnings in the region, including in Austria, which issued the second-highest alert level in much of the region over the weekend.
Eight people have died in avalanches since Friday in Austria.
“It was a very operation-intensive weekend for the Austrian Alpine Police, especially in the west of Austria,” said Patrick Maierhofer, a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry.
The weather made rescue attempts extremely challenging. Early this year many ski resorts were complaining of too little snow, but avalanches — and accidents involving them — are a common hazard in the Alps. Because of this skiers in many regions are required to have safety equipment such as transponders, shovels and retractable poles with which they can probe freshly dumped snow.
The victims in Austria included visitors from China, Germany and New Zealand who died in separate avalanches on Friday and Saturday.
Also on Saturday an Austrian skier and his guide were caught in an avalanche out of bounds from the St. Anton am Arlberg ski resort. Though rescuers were able to locate their emergency transponders relatively quickly, the search had to be called off because of bad weather on Saturday. The bodies were recovered on Sunday.
In the South Tyrol region of northern Italy, a 31-year-old German woman died in an avalanche close to the Limo pass about 30 miles east of the city of Bolzano. Another group of skiers saw the accident and rushed to the site to help. They were able to save the woman’s companion, who was unscathed. But the woman’s body was later found under eight feet of snow.
A helicopter had to call off an attempt to aid the rescue because of winds gusting up to 75 m.p.h., the Italian mountain rescue agency told the German news service DPA.
The police in the eastern Swiss canton of Grisons confirmed that two skiers in their 50s were killed in an avalanche. A third skier, who was part of the group, escaped unharmed.
Skiers were not the only ones were killed. A farmer trying to clear a service road died after his snowplow was buried in the early hours of Sunday north of the town of Lienz, Austria.
The danger is not over. Mr. Maierhofer of the Austrian Interior Ministry said alpinists were still being asked to be extra careful, especially in open areas that are prone to avalanches. “The warning levels issued must be urgently heeded,” he said.