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WEATHER

Nine killed in Austrian avalanches in deadly weekend as danger remains

Nine people died in three days of more than 100 avalanches rolling across Austria as warmer temperatures followed heavy snowfall, creating particularly dangerous conditions, authorities said on Sunday.

Snow-covered mountain in Austria.
Recent years have seen avalanches claim around 20 lives a year in Austria. Photo by Dating Scout on Unsplash

Most of the avalanches hit the western Tyrol region and Friday alone saw five fatalities, rescue services said.

That day, four Swedish skiers and their Austrian tour guide – all in their 40s – were killed when a 400-metre-wide avalanche, near the town of Spiss on the Swiss border, buried them, Austrian broadcaster Orf said.

A sixth member of their group was only partially buried by the snow and was able to phone for help. He was airlifted to hospital with injuries.

Also Friday, a man aged 60 and his wife of 61 were engulfed while cross-country skiing near the village of Auffach, Tyrol police said.

Saturday then saw a 58-year-old Austrian killed at Schmirn near Innsbruck in an avalanche which injured four others, Austrian broadcaster Orf reported.

Further west, an experienced skier of 43 was killed in the popular Vorarlberg region as Austria saw exceptional quantities of snow fall going into and across the weekend.

Five winter sports enthusiasts were buried by snowfall in the major resort of Soelden but were all rescued.

“The past three days have seen some 100 avalanche-type incidents requiring 70 interventions,” Tyrol regional authorities said Sunday, dubbing the situation “unprecedented” and warning of more to come.

“Considerable” risk
The region’s avalanche warning service (Lavinenwarndienst), which closely examines avalanche cones (the mass deposited where an avalanche has fallen) and where they break off, said that there was still “considerable avalanche danger” on Sunday, with further snow forecast for Monday.

The risk level for the region – in orange in the above map from the service – stood at three on a five-point scale on Sunday.

Artificially triggered avalanches and stability tests on the structure of the snow cover confirmed the delicate avalanche situation in the region.

Fresh snow and snowdrifts had fallen on weak old snow, making the structure particularly unfavourable, the service explained, adding that weak layers in old snow can be difficult to recognise.

Booming noises and cracks when stepping on a snowpack are clear signs of a weak structure.

Anyone who skis off the secured pistes needs to be an expert at avalanche assessment, Rudi Mair, head of the avalanche warning service, told Orf.

Recent years have seen avalanches claim around 20 lives a year in Austria, fewer over the past two years after the pandemic vastly reduced skier numbers.

 

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WEATHER

30C: Austria set for first heatwave of the year

Early summer weather reaches the Alpine country in the coming days, with temperatures as high as 30C in the coming days.

30C: Austria set for first heatwave of the year

Austria is set to experience its first heatwave of the year, with temperatures rising to 30C (86F) in several states, according to forecasts from Austria’s Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG).

Already this Wednesday, the Western state of Tyrol will see high temperatures ranging from 25C to 30C. The state residents can also expect a lot of sunshine throughout the day.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

This Thursday, Styria will be affected by the high temperatures, getting the warmest day of the year so far. In the southeast, it will be up to 30C, and in Upper Styria, 24C to 29C. In all other states, including Vienna, temperatures can get as high as 29C.

With rain expected to fall over the entire country on Friday, temperatures will drop again.

The beginning of the weekend should see a maximum of 26C in East Tyrol. Also on Saturday, as thunderstorms affect mainly the West of Austria.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in spring in Vienna

On Sunday, though, the sun is expected to shine again in most of the country. Maximum temperatures should be between 25C and 28C, according to ZAMG.

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