alps snow avalanche kills three skiers near lech austria

Alps snow: Avalanche kills three skiers near Lech, Austria

A sign warning of avalanche danger is seen on a closed road after heavy snowfall near Obertauern, AustriaImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Austria has seen record snowfall this week, raising avalanche warnings (file picture)

Three men have been killed in an avalanche near the Austrian ski resort of Lech am Arlberg, local police say.

The search for a fourth person, declared as missing, had to be halted due to the ongoing avalanche risk.

The group came from southern Germany and were reported missing by one of their wives on Saturday night.

In France, two employees at the Morillon ski resort died when the avalanche-control charges they were trying to set accidentally went off.

The accident took place at an altitude of 1,800m (6,000ft) as the two men were preparing the pistes ahead of their opening with an avalanche prevention programme, mountain rescuers said.

Weather forecasters had warned of a high risk of avalanches in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions following fresh overnight snowfall.

The three dead German men, aged 32, 36 and 57, were found at about 23:00 (22:00 GMT) on Saturday.

Police in the western province of Vorarlberg said they were located through mobile phone tracking, near the Langer Zug slope – one of the steepest in the world.

It had been closed due to dangerous conditions.

The men were wearing touring skis, which are used to climb uphill slopes and ski off-piste.

The three victims bring the number of weather-related deaths in parts of Europe this month to at least 24, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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Media captionSnow brings parts of Europe to standstill

Austria has seen record snowfall, with more forecast for the weekend. Soldiers, firefighters, and volunteers have been battling to clear cut-off roads and rooftops during breaks in the weather.

On Friday, troops airlifted 66 German students and teachers to safety, after they became stranded at the Kasberg ski station in Grünau.

The same day, the Red Cross helped drivers stuck on a motorway in the south German state of Bavaria, and a nine-year-old boy was killed near Munich when a tree collapsed under the weight of snow.

In Switzerland, an avalanche hit the restaurant of the Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp, injuring three people.

Local reports said the avalanche had been 300m (984ft) wide when it came down the nearby mountain pass.

A Nasa graphic tweeted by BBC Weather showed how the geography of Europe has shaped the snow’s progress.

“Little to no snow has fallen on the Italian side of the Alps,” meteorologist Matt Taylor noted. “The sheer scale of the Alps has blocked the snow-bearing clouds making it over.”

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