'Unprecedented' Avalanche Onslaught Leaves 9 Dead

Austrian authorities warn of continued 'considerable' risk in the Alps
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2022 10:40 AM CST
In One Weekend, Snow Buries 9 in the Alps
Stock photo of the Alps.   (Getty Images/GlennVermeesch)

Nine people are dead in the Austrian Alps after what's being described as an "unprecedented" spate of avalanche activity. On Saturday, officials there continued to warn of "considerable" risk of avalanches, due to heavy snowfall followed by warmer weather conditions, reports the AP. The Guardian details four separate fatal incidents, starting with four Swedish skiers and a guide who were swept away Friday in Tyrol state, near the Ischgl ski resort along the Austrian-Swiss border. One member of that party survived, called for help, and was airlifted out by a helicopter.

Also in Tyrol, a 60-year-old man and his wife, 61, were said to have been buried Friday while cross-county skiing near the village of Auffach, while on Saturday, a 58-year-old Austrian man was killed at Schmirn, near Innsbruck. In the state of Vorarlberg, an experienced 43-year-old skier was also killed, though it's not clear on which day. Several others were rescued over the past few days, and the BBC notes that at least two people were killed by avalanches in Switzerland.

"The past three days have seen some 100 avalanche-type incidents requiring 70 interventions," Tyrol regional authorities said Sunday, per the Guardian, calling the situation "unprecedented." Although the pandemic has kept avalanche deaths down in Austria over the past two years, the country usually sees about 20 deaths annually from such activity. With more snow expected, as well as high winds, Austria's avalanche level has now been moved up to level four on its five-level scale, which means "very large avalanches are likely," notes the BBC. (Read more avalanche stories.)

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