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Five die in avalanche-related incidents as European cold weather death toll rises

At least 26 people have been killed due to cold weather in parts of Europe this month.

A man cleans snow from a roof on Saturday in St. Jakob in the Austrian province of Tyrol.
A man cleans snow from a roof on Saturday in St. Jakob in the Austrian province of Tyrol.
Image: AP/PA Images

Updated Jan 13th 2019, 1:38 PM

THREE GERMAN SKIERS have been killed and a fourth is missing following an avalanche in Austria, police said on Sunday as snowfall set in again in the northern Alps.

The bodies of the men, aged 57, 36 and 32, were recovered on Saturday evening near the ski resort of Lech, a few hours after the wife of one of the skiers reported them missing.

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

Police said the four friends had apparently skied onto 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 mobile phone tracking.

Meanwhile, two employees at a ski resort in the French Alps died on Sunday when the avalanche-control charges they were trying to set accidentally went off, mountain rescue experts said. 

The accident took place at an altitude of 1,800 metres as the pair from the Morillon ski resort “were working on an avalanche prevention programme”, one of the experts said. 

The avalanche brings to at least 26 the number of weather-related deaths reported in parts of Europe this month.

On Saturday, authorities in southern Germany and Austria 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, local authorities closed 11 sports halls as a precaution until Tuesday because the weight of snow on their roofs was expected to increase, the German news agency dpa reported.

Trains on part of the route between the German cities of Munich and Lindau, on Lake Constance near the Austrian border, were traveling more slowly than usual because of a risk of that trees weighed down by snow could fall onto the tracks.

Balderschwang, a small Alpine resort on Germany’s border with Austria, was cut off on Sunday as the pass leading into 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.

With additional reporting from AFP.

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