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Austria Avalanches Kill 4

November 19, 2000

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Two avalanches swept away groups of skiers at separate resorts in the western province of Tyrol Sunday, killing four people, police and rescuers said.

The first avalanche roared down a mountain at the ski resort of Obergurgl, 215 miles west of Vienna, killing three German skiers. Five members of the group, from a ski club from Mannheim, Germany, managed to free themselves from the snow.

Rescuers struggling with snow up to 20 feet deep managed to pull one man alive from the snow, but he died en route to hospital, the Austria Press Agency reported. Bodies of a second man and a woman were found hours later.

The search using helicopters and dogs was concentrated on the Rosskar ski area, where witnesses said skiers had ventured onto runs that had been closed due to avalanche warnings. The tiny resort near the Austrian border with Italy is isolated and nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.

A second avalanche struck hours later in Goelbner, another tiny Tyrollean resort 260 miles southwest of Vienna. It swept away a group of seven skiers, killing an Austrian man, police said.

The man was dug out of the snow mass by members of his group, but he died shortly afterward at the accident site.

The searches are over at both sites. None of the dead were identified pending notification of their families.

The accidents occurred at a time when skiers were attracted to the resorts because of near perfect conditions with early snow and sunshine. The large quantities of newly fallen snow, however, had created an extreme avalanche danger.

Last winter 39 people were killed in avalanches in Austria, 18 in Tyrol.

The avalanches came a little more than a week after Austria’s biggest ski disaster when 155 people died during a fire on a funicular train inside a tunnel in the Kitzsteinhorn Mountain at the resort of Kaprun in the province of Salzburg.

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