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Thousands Still Stranded, More Avalanches Feared

March 15, 1988

INNSBRUCK, Austria (AP) _ Many roads in mountainous western Austria remained impassable because of snow or avalanches Monday, leaving thousands of tourists trapped at ski resorts.

In Tyrol province, 10 people died under avalanches last weekend. Forestry experts and mountain rescue officials predicted new slides of wet snow this week.

Traffic chaos in the area eased a bit. Parts of westernmost Vorarlberg province remained isolated, however, and tourists were stranded at the resorts of Lech, Zuers and Stuben and in the Kleine Walsertal valley along the border with West Germany.

Among those isolated by the masses of snow were former Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and her husband, Prince Bernhard, who are staying in a hotel at Lech am Arlberg.

The royal guests had planned to leave last Saturday. A helicopter flight out of Lech also had to be canceled because of bad weather.

Snowfalls resumed at noon in western Austria and supply flights to isolated towns and villages were impossible. Local officials said there was no lack of food because emergency supplies had been stored.

Snow removal and cleanup operations continued at St. Anton, the tourist resort in western Tyrol hit by avalanche disasters. Five Swedish vacationers and two local women were killed by two huge avalanches early Sunday. Damage was estimated in the millions of dollars.

Experts said wet snow does not settle down unless the ground is frozen. They said recent mild weather, coupled with rising temperatures predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday, is bound to increase avalanche danger.

In St. Anton, at least 14 houses, including hotels and guesthouses, were wholly or partially destroyed by avalanches.

Work teams cleared snow from the approaches of the Arlberg tunnel, allowing trains to travel to Vorarlberg province.

In Salzburg province, the main westward rail line was closed for most of Monday because of acute avalanche danger. Long-distance trains were diverted through Regensburg, West Germany.

Update hourly