In Austria, approximately 11,000 inhabitants and tourists from the outside world have been cut off mainly in the west of the country.
Many important roads and passages have been blocked by the persistent snow and the avalanche danger. In Tirol today, code 5 applies for avalanche danger, the highest level that rarely occurs. This weekend there were already three deaths in avalanches in the Alpine country, a fourth is still missing.
According to the Austrian police, the victims are men of 57, 36 and 32 years old. They came from the south of Germany. The missing person is 28 years old. The four were friends and skiing together.
It was the wife of one of the four who had an alarm last night. Thanks to the signal from their mobile phones, the rescue teams knew where they were. The three bodies were found around 11 pm. The victims had injuries and showed suffocation symptoms. The foursome probably went off-piste skiing, after which they were surprised by the snow mass. They had emergency equipment with them, but despite activated airbags they got stolen.
Code 5 avalanche danger
In parts of Austria code 5 for avalanche danger apply. That is the highest avalanche warning level and is very rare. The authorities in Tirol have decided to do so because of new snowfall that will bring a meter of fresh snow in some places from today.
According to the meteorologists, not only in the northern Alps, larger quantities of snow can be expected, but also on the important Austrian-Italian Brenner border pass. But improvement is in sight. After Tuesday, the weather services expect the avalanche risk to drop rapidly.
The accident with the two piste workers in France happened a little before 8:30 am at an altitude of about 1,800 meters. The two employees of the Morillon ski station, near the Pointe de Cupoire, were working with explosives to generate avalanches in a controlled manner. This happens every year before the opening of the ski slopes in the region to reduce the avalanche danger. Investigators are on site to investigate the correct circumstances of the accident.
Meteo France has warned of a high risk of avalanches (level 4 on a scale of 5) today in Savoie and Haute-Savoie due to heavy snowfall on the mountain ranges. As a result, the snow package risks becoming less stable, which increases the risk of avalanches, even in areas with low altitude.
1,300 people stuck by avalanche in Germany
In the German ski resort Balderschwang, in the south of the country, 1,300 residents and tourists are stuck because the road to the village is closed from both sides. On the Austrian side, an avalanche is blocking the passage, but the road is also closed by the avalanche danger. For the time being, an evacuation is not necessary: the electricity supply is intact and there are still sufficient stocks.
Even more meters of snow until Tuesday
Because it has snow again, the danger of avalanches will not only increase in the Arlberg region, where up to 60 avalanches per day are now being exploded. At high altitudes around one meter and more fresh snow is expected by Tuesday. At a number of locations in Austria, it has not snowed so much in January for the last hundred years.