Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 00:44 GMT
Avalanche buries Austrian town
More than 20 people have been killed in avalanches in recent weeks
At least eight people have been killed after twin avalanches hit the small town of Galtuer in the Alps in western Austria.
Rescue workers and volunteers armed with snow shovels managed to save 23 people buried by the avalanche.
Twelve army helicopters are on standby in the Tyrolean Alps, together with search teams and sniffer dogs.
Roads to the area have been blocked, and most phone lines are down.
Lack of medical facilities
Some of those rescued alive are believed to require more medical help than is available at the site. There is no hospital in the town and only one doctor in the rescue crew.
Authorities are seeking medical experts among the thousands of Austrian and foreign tourists trapped in the area.
First avalanche in living memory
This is the first avalanche near Galtuer in living memory and the town did not have avalanche barriers.
Five other buildings were hit near the centre of the resort, and some roads were covered in up to five metres of snow.
The vibrations also triggered off a small avalanche at a neighbouring resort where tourists were evacuated in time.
The Mayor of Ishgl, another town in the immediate area, has asked for all his residents and tourists to be evacuated by air as soon as possible.
The area has experienced the heaviest snowfall for half a century, and is on high avalanche alert.
Other Austrian avalanches kill three
In another avalanche on Tuesday a 35-year-old German woman was killed when a snowslide ploughed into a chalet in Sportgastein near Salzburg, burying several other people.
The man was still alive when found, but bad weather prevented an emergency flight to a hospital and he died later of his injuries.
Around 20,000 people have now been trapped for several days in resorts around western Austria.
In other parts of Europe, avalanches have also been wreaking chaos and claiming lives.
Swiss rescue workers have now found seven bodies after an avalanche swept away nine chalets in southern Switzerland. Three people are still missing.
The treacherous weather conditions are expected to continue until at least Thursday, prompting the UK Foreign Office to issue a warning to skiers.
A spokesman said: "The Alps are experiencing the worst conditions for many years and this situation is likely to continue for several more weeks."
The Foreign Office has issued a telephone number for anyone worried about relatives who may be in the area. The number is 0171 270 3000.