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Rescuers Find Bodies After Avalanche

February 26, 1999

LANDECK, Austria (AP) _ Rescue teams digging through snowy debris found the last remaining bodies today from a devastating avalanche that roared through the Alpine town of Galtuer three days earlier in western Austria.

A search continued for one person still missing but presumed dead from a snowslide that struck neighboring Valzur the following day. A total of 37 people died in both towns.

Roads into the mountainous area remained blocked and an international airbridge of U.S., Austrian, German and Swiss helicopters ferried more people still stranded in endangered villages in the Tyrol region out to safety.

Officials said the threat of further avalanches was extremely high, with above-freezing temperatures warming the masses of snow perched high on Alpine mountainsides.

The miraculous survival of a 4-year-old boy, pulled Wednesday from the deadly snow mass that slammed into Valzur, brought a bit of bright news to the area. He was reported well on the way to recovery today in a hospital.

The discovery today of four more bodies, one of them a child, raised the number of dead in Valzur to seven and 30 in Galtuer. One person was still missing in Valzur.

Some 30,000 people have poured out of the area, most of them via U.S. Black Hawks and other helicopters landing on a blocked-off section of the autobahn outside Landeck.

The risk of new snowslides has closed ski resorts in the region and stranded thousands of tourists and locals in Tyrol and neighboring Voralberg province.

Both Galtuer and Valzur were evacuated Thursday, except for rescue crews and locals wishing to stay. But 1,000 tourists refused to leave, either waiting for roads to reopen or determined not to quit their holidays.

German tourists who arrived in Munich on Thursday expressed relief to be out of danger.

Hans Weimann, 77, said the slide started with an incredible noise that ``got louder and louder″ until everything went white.

The Galtuer avalanche was the most severe Europe has seen this winter, itself one of the snowiest in 50 years. Avalanches have claimed more than 70 lives across the continent this year.

In the French Alps, an avalanche claimed yet another victim Thursday.

The other five confirmed dead in Austria were found in Valzur, in the Paznaun Valley. At least two people were still missing in the village, where rescue teams found the Austrian boy, whose name was not released, after he spent 100 minutes under the snow.

He was rushed to nearby Galtuer, where doctors saved his life by slowly ``warming him up″ before sending him to a hospital in the town of Zams, where he was expected to remain for some time under observation.

Another avalanche hit Neustift in Stubai Valley south of Innsbruck late Thursday, but no one was missing.

In Switzerland, authorities in the resort of Leukerbad said an avalanche that rolled into the village Thursday was set off by the local explosives specialist, without informing emergency officials. The avalanche sent one person to the hospital with a suspected heart attack, and several others were treated for shock.

Elsewhere in the country, the situation appeared to be returning to normal today. The main north-south Gotthard route was fully reopened and trains were running again to some of the most remote Alpine valleys near the Austrian border.

Update hourly