Austrian avalanches leave three dead

A series of avalanches in Austria has left three people dead since Friday, as the ski season gets into full swing, with authorities warning of the risks posed by a particularly unstable snow cover.

Austria has plenty of ski resorts that can be reached via train from Germany.
Austria has plenty of ski resorts that can be reached via train from Germany. Photo by KERSTIN JOENSSON / AFP

“One winter sports enthusiast was killed in an avalanche in Kaltenbach on Saturday,” a police spokesman told AFP, declining to give any information about the circumstances of the accident in the small Alpine village.

According to the Austrian news agency APA, the victim was a 17-year-old New Zealander who was skiing off-piste.

On Friday, a 32-year-old Chinese man, also said to be skiing away from the designated routes, died in an avalanche in the resort of Soelden. 

A third victim was found dead on Saturday after being reported missing the previous day. APA reported that the man was 50 years old and died in the Kleinwalsertal valley on the border with Germany.

Over the past two days, intensive snowfall and wind have increased the avalanche danger in the Alpine Tyrol and Vorarlberg regions.

Warnings have been issued in both these popular ski resort regions, urging winter sports enthusiasts to exercise caution.

However an alert level four, on a scale of five, has not prevented many holidaymakers from venturing off the marked slopes, authorities said.

The avalanche situation also led to numerous rescue operations on Saturday, made hazardous by the weather conditions.

And two people have been killed in neighbouring Switzerland, where two off-piste skiers were killed by an avalanche Saturday morning in the southeastern canton of Graubuenden, the cantonal police said.

A third member of the group was caught up in the flow of snow but managed to escape unharmed, local police said in a statement.

The two skiers who died were a 56-year-old woman and a 52-year-old man, said police.

The rescue operation there was hampered by poor visibility and bad weather conditions, police said.

The February school holidays have begun in Vienna and resorts have filled up, after a gloomy start to the season, marked by the absence of snow at low and medium altitudes.

In recent years, in Austria, a leading winter sports destination, there have been an annual average of 20 deaths on the slopes.

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VIDEOS: Austria hit by heavy flooding after severe storms

The recent high water level on the Danube River has lead to widespread flooding. Residents in Linz and several Lower Austrian cities were hit as heavy rains caused damage.

VIDEOS: Austria hit by heavy flooding after severe storms

The recent days of heavy rain have led to the Danube River rising dramatically to seven meters. The high water levels have resulted in widespread flooding across Linz and Lower Austrian cities, causing chaos and disruption, reported Kurier

In Linz, popular recreational spots such as the Alturfahrer Danube beach are now completely underwater. Meteorologists warn that the situation could worsen, with water levels expected to peak during the night of June 6th.

410 incidents since Monday afternoon

Emergency services in the affected regions, such as firefighters, have been working constantly during the recent days, handling more than 410 incidents since Monday afternoon. In Lower Austria, the areas most affected are Tulln, St. Pölten, Melk, and Krems, where the flooding has affected streets, basements, and private homes.

Due to the flooding, areas in the district of Korneuburg had to be partially closed. Additionally, in places like Amstetten and Kritzendorf in the district of Tulln, the Danube overflowed its banks.

The situation in the district of Krems is also severe, especially in the southern villages and the town of Senftenberg. To address the crisis, 27 fire brigades with over 200 fire fighters were put in action. Throughout one night, they handled more than 250 emergency calls.

Vienna has also been affected by the flooding, even if significantly less than the already mentioned regions.

The city has issued a bathing ban for the New Danube following the flooding in the area. The ban, which also prohibits water sports and boating, was implemented for hygienic reasons.

Ships not allowed on the Danube 

Due to high water levels, all navigation on the Danube River in Austria has been prohibited since Tuesday afternoon, except for the Wiener Donaukanal, reported Die Presse.

The closure is a safety measure which affects both goods and passenger shipping, as well as recreational boating.

According to Christoph Caspar, spokesman for Via Donau, It is currently impossible to say how long the closure will last.