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The BBC's Paul Brennan in Vienna
"It's been a tragic eight days for Austria"
 real 28k

Sunday, 19 November, 2000, 16:55 GMT
Four killed in Austrian avalanches

Four people have been confirmed dead and one woman is reported missing after two avalanches in the Austrian province of Tyrol.

A wall of snow hurtled down the slopes next to the village of Obergurgl in the Oeztal ski area on Sunday morning, killing three skiers.

And a fourth person died after being struck by a second avalanche in the nearby area of Hochgurgl in the afternoon.

A rescue operation is under way involving several helicopters and around 60 rescue workers with mountain dogs.

One person was pulled alive but injured after the first avalanche while three others were already dead when found by rescuers.

The victims caught up in the 100-metre (330 feet) wide avalanche were part of a group of skiers from Mannheim in Germany.

"They were off-piste when it happened, and it looks as though they probably sparked the avalanche off," said a spokesman for the rescue operation.

The avalanche warning service had warned on Saturday that the risk of slides was high because of heavy snowfall in the region over the past two days.

Obergurgl is a tiny, isolated resort community near the Italian border south of Innsbruck.

Austria's second blow

Austria is still reeling from the mountain ski train disaster last week at the town of Kaprun.

coffins of kaprun dead
Eleven died in a snow slide at Kaprun in March
One-hundred-and-fifty-five people died when the train caught fire inside a tunnel on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier.

It is still not clear how that disaster happened.

Kaprun also suffered a massive avalanche in March this year in which 11 people died.

And in 1999, 38 people died in avalanches in the neighbouring resorts of Galtuer and Valzur.

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See also:

29 Mar 00 | World
Avalanches: A fatal attraction
24 Feb 99 | Europe
Avalanche buries Austrian town
29 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Galtür: Anatomy of an avalanche
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