Weekend of avalanches in Austria kill eight people

Over the past two days, heavy snow and wind have increased the danger of avalanches

The mountain ridge where an avalanche occurred in St Anton am Arlberg, western Austria, on February 4. AFP
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Five people were killed in avalanches in the west of Austria on Sunday, local police said, after three deaths were reported on Saturday.

There was a plea for caution on the slopes after the avalanche alert level reached four on a scale of five following several days of intense snow and wind.

The body of a man, 59, buried while helping the snow removal work with his tractor, was recovered on Sunday, police in Austria's western Tyrol region said.

Two skiers aged 29 and 33, one of whom was a guide, were found dead in Sankt Anton am Arlberg after being carried off-piste on Saturday morning.

And a man, who had not returned after cross-country skiing around the summit of Hohe Aifner, was recovered by rescuers and could not be revived, a police spokesman told AFP.

The authorities declined to give information on the nationality of the four victims recovered Sunday.

On Saturday, a 17-year-old New Zealander who was skiing off-piste, a German man in his 50s and a Chinese man, 32, also said to be skiing outside of the designated routes, were found dead.

Over the past two days, heavy snow and wind have increased the avalanche danger, with officials warning winter sports enthusiasts to use caution.

Thirty avalanches were reported on Saturday in Tyrol, 11 of which involved people missing, with rescue operations hampered by poor visibility and bad weather conditions.

Despite the high alert level, however, many holidaymakers have ventured off the marked slopes, authorities said.

With the February school holidays under way in Vienna, Austria's resorts have filled up after a poor start to the season because of the lack of snow at low and medium altitudes.

Avalanches have killed about 20 people annually in recent years in Austria, which is a top winter sports destination.

In Tyrol and the neighbouring region of Vorarlberg, authorities again warned that avalanche risks were high.

Updated: February 06, 2023, 5:53 AM