Avalanches in Switzerland kill two

Avalanches in Switzerland have left two people dead, leading officials to warn on Saturday of the risks posed by particularly unstable snow cover. A further eight people have died in neighbouring Austria

A man uses a machine to clear a path through the snow in the ski resort of Wengen in the Swiss Alps
A man uses a machine to clear a path through the snow in the ski resort of Wengen in the Swiss Alps. Avalanches have killed two people in Switzerland. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

In Switzerland, 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.

In Austria, the body of a 59-year-old man buried while helping the snow removal effort in his tractor was recovered, police in Austria’s western Tyrol region said on Sunday.

Two skiers aged 29 and 33, including a guide, who were carried off-piste on Saturday morning, were found dead in Sankt Anton am Arlberg.

And a 62-year-old 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.

These deaths are in addition to the three killed on Saturday who were visiting Austria’s Alpine regions.

“One winter sports enthusiast was killed in an avalanche in Kaltenbach on Saturday,” a police spokesman told AFP, without giving further details of the
accident in the small Alpine village.

Austrian news agency APA reported that the victim was a 17-year-old New Zealander who was skiing off-piste.

On Friday, a 32-year-old Chinese man, who was 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 Saturday after being reported missing the previous day. APA reported that the man, in his 50s, had died in the Kleinwalsertal valley on Austria’s border with Germany.
Over the past two days, intensive snowfall and wind have increased the avalanche danger.

The officials in Austria have warned winter sports enthusiasts to exercise caution.

Despite the alert level being set at four on a scale of five however, many holidaymakers have ventured off the marked slopes, authorities said.

The avalanche situation also led to numerous rescue operations on Saturday, which were themselves made more dangerous by the weather conditions.

With the February school holidays underway 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.

In recent years, in Austria, a leading winter sports destination, avalanches have killed around twenty people a year.

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What weather can you expect in Switzerland this week?

After a long stretch of scorching temperatures, rain and snow have hit Switzerland over the weekend. Does this mean the summer is definitely over?

What weather can you expect in Switzerland this week?

Since Saturday afternoon, between 40 and 80 mm of rain have fallen in many parts of the country, causing the banks of the Rhine river to partially flood, especially in Diepoldsau (St. Gallen), on the border with Austria.

Overnight from Sunday to Monday, river levels continued to rise in Ticino, Graubünden, and the Eastern Alps as well.

After the heatwave…snow

Though it is only August, snow has fallen at altitudes of between 2,000 and 2,400 metres. And “we can expect 50 centimeters or even more of snow in some areas above about 2,500 meters,” MeteoNews weather service said.

Given this drastic change in weather, the government had already set a level of danger 4 (out of 4) for the rain in the central and eastern regions. 

Strong and rapid rise in water levels, landslides on steep slopes, and flooding in underpasses, basement garages or cellars can’t be ruled out, authorities warned.

Road and rail traffic could also be affected.

What is the forecast for the rest of the week?

On Tuesday, the depression will gradually move away, according to official meteorological service, MeteoSwiss.

By midday on Tuesday, a further 40 to 80 mm of rain is expected along the northern slopes of the central and eastern Alps, as well as in the central and eastern Bernese Oberland, MeteoSwiss said.

On the Central and Eastern Plateau, in the southern side valleys of Valais, in Upper Valais, and in the Eastern Alps, an additional 20 to 50 mm of precipitation is forecast.

The snowfall limit will drop to around 1,900 meters on Tuesday.

Does this mean we should say goodbye to the summer?

Not necessarily.

After the wet and cool weekend and beginning of the week, sunshine and higher temperatures are forecast from Wednesday.

However, it looks (at least for now) that the heatwave is over and the temperatures for the rest of the week will not exceed mid.20s.

This is what you can look forward to in your area of Switzerland this week.