Fatal avalanches in Austrian Alps

Avalanche generic

Avalanche generic

Meanwhile, three German cross-country skiers died and a fourth was reported missing following an avalanche in western Austria, police said.

The bodies of the men - aged 57, 36 and 32 - were recovered in the afternoon after the wife of one of them filed a missing person's report and their phones were tracked.

Police said the four friends had apparently skied onto a trail that was closed. Although they had avalanche protection equipment and deployed airbags, the victims were buried by the avalanche and suffered multiple injuries. Police in Vorarlberg, Austria's westernmost province, had to call off the search for another missing German skier in the group, age 28, because of heavy snow and risk of avalanches.

Two employees at a ski resort in the French Alps died on Sunday when the avalanche-control charges they were trying to set accidentally went off, mountain rescue experts said. Ski patrollers are in charge of preventing potential dangers to skiers, notably by triggering controlled avalanches with powerful explosive charges.

The deaths over the weekend bring the total to at least 26 weather-related deaths reported in parts of Europe this month.

Some 500 soldiers have been drafted in to clear roads and roofs in the most heavily affected areas, and a further 1,000 soldiers are on standby, the government said.

But snow set in again on Saturday night.

Balderschwang, a small Alpine resort on Germany's border with Austria, was cut off on Sunday as the pass leading into it was closed for fear of avalanches.

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