VIENNA, 16 March (BelTA - Xinhua) - A huge avalanche in the Austrian state of Tyrol killed four people on Wednesday afternoon, according to local media reports.
The deceased were part of an eight-member Swiss tour group making their way to the summit of the Jochgrubenkogel in the Schmirntal region, when the avalanche occured.
All of them were initially covered in snow, though four managed to free themselves. An Austrian person who had observed the incident from afar immediately notified emergency services authorities.
A large-scale search-and-rescue operation was subsequently begun, including over 50 personnel and several helicopters who were on the scene within a very short time.
Three of the deceased were found relatively early on, while efforts to find the fourth persisted into the early evening until the person was found under about 12 metres of snow.
Authorities said the 500-meter wide avalanche was made of "tons of snow", that thundered about 700 metres down into the valley below. They believe the cause was a very weak foundation of the snowpack, that avalanche warning services had already been pointing out to be present in Tyrol over the entire winter.
Additionally the Jochgrubenkogel has a reputation for being dangerous, with several avalanche accidents having occurred at the same place, a steep hang with an angle of up to 40 degrees.
Just a year ago, an eight-member French group was hit by an avalanche in almost the same area, with four of them buried under snow. They had however managed to survive the ordeal.More about Society