Heavy snowfalls have left large areas of the Austrian and Bavarian Alps paralysed, with more than 2,000 people trapped in villages and ski resorts cut off from the outside world. Five people have been killed, and another two are missing.
The entire Austrian ski resort of Hochkar was evacuated on Monday amid fears of avalanches. “We have to bring everyone down from the mountain, both guests and staff. As far as I know, this has never happened in the history of Hochkars, but we can not guarantee medical care at the moment,” Friedrich Fahrnberger, the resort’s mayor, told local NÖN news.
Avalanches warnings are at the second highest level across much of the Austrian and Bavarian Alps, after three feet of snow fell in 24 hours.
“The problem is not the total snow depth, but that more than a metre of snow has been added in such a short time,” Reinhard Blamauer, a Hochkar community worker said.
Two German skiers were killed in separate avalanches in Austria over the weekend. A Slovenian skier died after becoming trapped in deep snow, while a Swiss snowboarder was also killed. Two Austrian skiers are missing. In neighbouring Bavaria a man was killed by a falling branch.
More than 2,000 people are cut off by the heavy snowfall in Austria and more than 4,000 households are without electricity. Military helicopter flights to airlift supplies to affected areas had to be called off yesterday (MON) because of worsening weather, with more heavy snowfalls forecast in the days ahead.
The situation is not yet as drastic as last year’s heavy snowfalls in Switzerland, when more than 13,000 tourists were trapped in Zermatt ski resort and seats on helicopter flights out rose as high as £50 for a ten-minute ride.
The mood in affected areas this year remains calm, according to local reports, with communities used to being cut off in winter.
Even Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, was affected at the weekend when he was briefly stranded in the ski resort where he was holidaying. Mr Kurz had to cancel plans for a local visit, but returned to work in Vienna on Monday.