Eight dead in weekend avalanches in Austria
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Austrian police said Sunday that five people had been killed in avalanches in the west of the country after three deaths were reported Saturday despite pleas for caution on ski slopes.
The eight deaths came as resorts were filled during the February school holidays in Vienna, with the avalanche alert level at four on a scale of five after several days of intense snowfall and wind.
On Sunday, 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.
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.
On Saturday, a 17-year-old New Zealander who was skiing off-piste, a German man in his 50s and a 32-year-old Chinese man, also said to be skiing outside of the designated routes, were found dead.
Over the past two days, heavy snowfall and wind have increased the avalanche danger, with officials warning winter sports enthusiasts to exercise caution.
Thirty avalanches were reported on Saturday in Tyrol alone, eleven of which involved missing people, with the numerous rescue operations hampered by poor visibility and bad weather conditions.
Despite the alert level being set at four on a scale of five, however, many holidaymakers have ventured off the marked slopes, authorities said.
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.
Avalanches have killed around 20 people annually in recent years in Austria, a top winter sports destination.
In Tyrol and the neighbouring region of Vorarlberg, authorities again warned that avalanche risks were high due to wind and snowfall.