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More Bodies Found in Austria Tunnel

June 2, 1999

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Salvage teams have retrieved four more bodies from an Alpine tunnel after a devastating weekend fire, bringing the death toll to nine, Salzburg’s governor said Wednesday.

The number of dead could rise as workers untangle the mangled wreckage from a multiple-vehicle collision that set off a 15-hour blaze in the Tauern tunnel, Salzburg Governor Franz Schausberger was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency.

Chunks of concrete lining falling from the tunnel’s ceiling have repeatedly interrupted salvage operations. Searchers now say at least 17 charred trucks and more than a dozen private cars were in the blackened tunnel.

What workers initially thought was one crushed car under a truck turned out to be four vehicles smashed together, Schausberger said.

``The way this accident looks, it is certain that nobody could have escaped from those vehicles,″ he said.

An animal rights group said up to 61 cows in one or two cattle trucks also died in the fire.

It will be months before traffic can be restored through the tunnel, a key North-South route linking Germany and northern Austria with Italy and the Balkans.

The accident started when a truck plowed into the back of a car, setting off a chain reaction of explosions, firefighters said.

It was the second major fire in a tunnel through the European Alps this year. Forty-two people were killed in a fire that erupted March 24 in the Mont Blanc tunnel linking France and Italy.

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