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Germany, Austria set for more snow after deadly avalanches | DW | 13.01.2019

Severe snowfalls in Austria and France have claimed five lives after the Alps region experienced multiple avalanches. Snow has cut off one German border town, while rail services in Bavaria and Switzerland have been hit.

Southern Germany and Austria can expect further heavy snowfall over the next few days, forecasters have warned, after unusually severe weather left five people dead in the Alps region.

Up to 80 centimeters (31 inches) of fresh snow is expected above 1, 000 meters (3, 280 feet) until Tuesday, along with more than half a meter at lower altitudes.

On Sunday morning, two French ski patrollers were killed while handling explosive devices used to trigger controlled avalanches close to the Grand Massif ski resort.

Read more: Austrian army rescues German students stranded at ski resort

The Haute-Savoie region's high mountain gendarmerie said the rare accident happened before the slopes around the town of Morillon were opened to the public. They explained how the patrollers, aged 44 and 53, sustained fatal injuries while attempting to stop potential dangers to skiers.

Avalanche risk raised

Forecasters had raised the risk of avalanches in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie region to "strong" (level 4 on a scale of 5) on Sunday because of fresh snowfall on the massifs overnight.

Rescue teams in Austria, meanwhile, continued to search for a 28-year-old German skier missing after an avalanche around the exclusive mountain resort of Lech in the state of Vorarlberg.

Three other German skiers, aged 32, 36, and 56, died after being buried by the snowslip on Saturday.

Police said the four friends had apparently skied onto a trail that had been closed.

The victims had suffered multiple injuries and showed signs of suffocation, despite deploying rescue airbags.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    'Snow chaos'

    For days, the German state of Bavaria has been inundated by massive amounts of snow. Munich police urged drivers to deal with the snow covering their vehicles or face potential fines after tweeting a picture of a car (not this one!) shrouded in ice at a stoplight. German media has dubbed the extreme weather phenomenon "Schneechaos" — or snow chaos.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Helping out

    In Berchtesgaden, a town in the Bavarian Alps near the Austrian border, Germany's armed forces — the Bundeswehr — had to deliver much-needed supplies in the middle of the night. The reason: the road to the village was cut off by the sheer amount of snow fall. As such, the military had the only transport vehicles able to reach the area. Local tram services were also in no state to run.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Snow pyramid

    A festive pyramid diorama was covered in snow in Schönheide, a town near the Czech border in eastern Germany. Snow plows have been pressed to find places to pile the snow from the street after a blizzard powdered the Ore Mountains.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Roof brigade

    Firefighters dislodged piles of snow from a roof in the western Austrian town of Mariazell. Since January 5, around 3, 700 firefighters have been called upon in the Austrian state of Styria to help deal with the flurry.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria


    For some, the snow kept them from reaching home. Hundreds of drivers had to sleep in their vehicles overnight after being trapped on the highway between Munich and Salzburg. In an editorial, the conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said climate change may be a contributing factor to the "chaotic amounts of snow" and shows how quickly areas can be changed by its effects.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Air support

    A "Super Puma" helicopter was prepared for takeoff in a parking lot in Schönau am Königsee, a town in southeast Bavaria. The helicopters were used to blow snow from trees and onto roads to prevent trees and their branches from falling onto cars passing by.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Emergency work

    A fireman cleared off snow from a roof in the Berchtesgaden region of Bavaria near the Austrian border. More than 1, 000 emergency workers were dispatched to Upper Bavaria to deal with the snow.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    More warnings

    But Bavaria wasn't the only place in Germany to be affected by the snowfall. North of Bavaria in the German state of Thuringia, park authorities warned people against entering forests, saying enormous snow loads threatened to bring down numerous trees. Several roads were also closed by deep snow and fallen trees.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Snow day

    While not nearly as chaotic as Bavaria and Thuringia, the German state of Baden-Württemberg received plenty of snow too. In Stuttgart, buildings were covered by the white powder frost, while in some parts of the state, school children were allowed to take the day off.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Freezing neighbors

    For days now, Austrian authorities have issued avalanche warnings for its Alpine slopes. At least eight people have been killed by weather-related incidents. In some cases, rescuers have had to save people stranded in cut-off areas. On Thursday, nine tourists from Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Hungary had to be rescued after venturing off-piste in the Zell am See resort area.

  • Heavy snow creates chaos in southern Germany and Austria

    Elsewhere in Europe

    While Germany and Austria have received a lot of extreme weather coverage, that doesn't mean other parts of Europe weren't inundated by snowfall. As far south as Greece, refugee children took it as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with a snowball or two. Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy and Turkey also received their share.

Bavaria set for more snow

Southern parts of the German state of Bavaria are expected to see heavy snowfalls over the next two days. Since Friday, there have been numerous reports of accidents and road closures.

German soldiers were called out to help with snow clearing operations, and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said they would stay "as long as needed."

The winter sports resort of Balderschwang, close to Germany's border with Austria, has been cut off since Sunday morning as the pass leading to it was closed due to an avalanche.

About 1, 300 residents and visitors were left stranded, but officials said power was still working and enough supplies were on hand.

The nearby ski area of Grasgehren was cleared, however, with 40 people evacuated.

Trains on part of the route between the German cities of Munich and Lindau, on Lake Constance near the Austrian border, were traveling more slowly than usual because of a risk that trees weighed down by snow could fall onto the tracks.

In central Switzerland, trains carrying cars through the Furka tunnel were suspended because of an avalanche on a nearby road.

mm/jm (AFP, AP, DPA)

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