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Avalanches kill at least 9, including a teenager, in Italy and Austria as heavy snow hits the Alps

The danger of avalanches


At least nine people died in avalanches in Austria and Italy over the weekend as heavy snow and school holidays drew skiers into the Alps, with some of the victims dying after skiing in unmarked areas despite warnings of elevated avalanche risk, police said.

On Sunday a snow plow driver in East Tirol in Austria was recovered dead after being swept away. In Oetztal a 32-year-old Chinese skier died, while in Zillertal a 17-year old male from New Zealand was buried and in Kleinwalsertal a 55-year-old German man missing since Friday was found dead.

More than a dozen avalanches were reported in the Tirol region of Austria alone and authorities had set the warning level at four on a scale of five and urged caution. On Monday, the avalanche warning service in Tirol continued to advise against participating in winter sports around the area, listing the danger level at three — which corresponds with “considerable” danger — and noting that “avalanche conditions remain unfavorable.” The warning service added that people in the region should exercise “great caution and restraint,” as even a single winter sports participant could trigger avalanches, “including large ones,” in some places.

A 31-year-old German woman was killed Saturday in the South Tirol region of Italy when a snowmass broke loose at 7,200 feet near the Limo Pass some 50 miles east of Bolzano, the dpa news agency reported. Rescue efforts were complicated by 75-mile per hour winds, and the woman’s body was recovered from beneath more than two feet of snow. Another woman skiing with her was freed from the snow unharmed.

Other victims Saturday included a 29-year-old ski guide and his 33-year-old male guest, who were skiing away from prepared ski runs when a snowboarder set off an avalanche above them in St. Anton in Austria. In Kaunertal, about 30 miles east of there, a 62-year old man was killed by another snowslide.

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