Eight die in avalanches

This image, made available by Swiss air rescue service Rega, shows helicopters and rescue workers on duty at the accident scene at Piz Vilan Keystone

Police say eight people have died in avalanches in the Swiss Alps, despite warnings that it is dangerous to ski off-piste.

This content was published on February 1, 2015 - 11:26 and agencies

An avalanche on the slopes of the Piz Vilan mountain in Graubünden in the east of the country swept away seven members of a nine-strong group of skiers as they were descending at around 2,200-metres on Saturday afternoon.

Rescuers recovered three bodies and four seriously injured people, Graubünden police saidExternal link. Two of those with serious injuries later died in hospital, bringing the total deaths to five, it was announced on SundayExternal link.

The skiers, from the Zurich/Aargau region, were all equipped with avalanche rescue equipment, police said. The reason for the accident remains unclear.

Two people also died in avalanches in the Bernese Oberland: in Mürren a 28-year-old snowboarder was overcome by an avalanche while off-piste, and could not be saved. A 31-year-old man who was skiing off-piste in Adelboden was rescued alive, but later died in hospital.

Another man died early Saturday afternoon in Wildhaus, Toggenburg, while skiing off-piste. An avalanche was triggered and he fell several hundred metres. The two people accompanying him were unharmed, according to St Gallen cantonal policeExternal link. Almost at the same time, a snowboarder in another ski area was rescued from an avalanche.

Two skiers in Verbier in canton Valais in the French-speaking part of Switzerland were luckier. They were rescued from an avalanche and taken to hospital by helicopter with non-life threatening injuries.

A further three people died in avalanches on Thursday and Friday, bringing to total to 11 deaths in three days in the Swiss Alps.

Heavy snowfall

Officials have been warning of continuing avalanche dangers in many parts of the Swiss Alps and the Jura Mountains following heavy snowfall.

The avalanche bulletin for Sunday eveningExternal link from the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research WSL says: that in the north “a high avalanche danger will be encountered in some regions”. It has accordingly raised the danger level to four – high – in the affected regions in the northern flank of the Alps. Other parts of the country, including other northern areas, the Valais, and the Jura, remain level three.

Avalanches could be triggered by even a single winter sport participant in level three and four zones, warned the bulletin.

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