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Avalanche death toll rises
Saturday February 6, 2010 - Email this article to a friend

At least 10 people have died in a number of separate incidents in recent days. 3 people died in Austria over the weekend following 5 last week. A British airman has died in Germany and an off piste skier in Switzerland. The authorities are urging caution.

It takes the total number of fatalities in Austria this season to 15.  A German man and 2 Austrians were killed over the weekend in different incidents in the Austrian Alps.

Last Thursday 5 people died.

2 Austrian snowboarders were buried under a quarter a metre of snow near Werfenweng.  Another man was killed at the Kanzelawnd-Felhorn ski area and a 29-year old woman was buried in the Kasberg ski area.

It took rescuers over an hour to find her body.

Meanwhile, another woman died in the Ziller Valley in the Tyrol. Her companion was also buried but he managed to dig himself out and then called the emergency services using his mobile phone.

The accidents follow the death of ski instructor in St Anton that we reported earlier on PlanetSKI.

He is one of a growing number of professionals - mountain guides, ski patrol members, rescue workers and instructors - that have died this winter.

Even small avalanches can killEven small avalanches can killIt is reported by Austrian media that another 5 people were caught in other avalanches but were able to be rescued.

In Germany a British airman was killed in Oberstdorf in Bavaria when he and 2 companions were hit. They were on a training exercise.

He was pronounced dead at the scene and an investigation is now under away according to the Ministry of Defence.

The Ministry of Defence said the airman's next of kin have been informed and expressed "sincere condolences to the family at this very sad time", according to a report on the BBC.

Meanwhile in Lauterbrunnen near the Swiss resort of Wengen an off piste skier has been killed.  The avalanche warning was 3 on a scale of 5 meaning the threat was deemed to be "considerable".

In Austria the level is 4 in many places.

In Switzerland 4 people have died in the past week alone bringing the total number of people that have perished in avalanches in the country this season to 13.

According to the Swiss Avalanche Institute in Davos 2 of the 4 were snowboarders and the other was out snowshoeing.

In Austria 8 people have died in the past week alone.

We have no news from France or Italy but we are checking and will report on the situation later.

The respected web site Henry's Avalanche Talk that is based in Espace Killy reports that conditions are dangerous in places and is urging people to ski and snowboard responsibly.

Heavy snowfall in the past week has fallen on a weak layer in the snowpack, making conditions very unstable in places.

Examining the layersExamining the layersExperts have been digging snow pits to examine the stability of the different layers in the snow.

Skiers and snowboarders are being urged to use extreme caution and obey all the safety rules.

There is some great skiing to be had at the moment across the Alps but fresh snow often brings increased danger of avalanches.

We have just been sent details of the death of a British woman who died in an avalanche in the Spanish Pyrenees while climbing. See here for further information.

Further afield in Iran news agencies report that 8 people have died and another 49 people have been rescued after a huge avalanche came down on a road between 2 ski resorts to the north of the capital Tehran.

Meanwhile an avalanche has killed 17 Indian soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir.  It hit a military training camp.

It happened near Gulmarg, the region's main ski resort, about 50km from Srinagar.

Many other soliders were rescued.  For further details see this story on the BBC.

So should avalanche deaths be reported by the media? 

It may sound on odd question but here at PlanetSKI we are sometimes criticised by resorts, tour operators and those in the ski industry for covering deaths in the mountains. "It is so depressing and you should be reporting good news."  This is our response.  What do you think?

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