Avalanche buries street in Austrian town; no one injured

Tuesday, April 22nd 2008, 11:00 am
By: News 9

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- An avalanche buried a street near a popular Austrian ski resort beneath as much as 13 feet of snow on Tuesday but authorities said a search turned up no victims.

Officials said the avalanche struck around 10:30 a.m. and piled snow over a 300-foot stretch of roadway just outside the town of Soelden in the western Alpine province of Tyrol.

Rescue workers poked through the heavy snow mass, but police later issued a statement saying no people or vehicles were caught in the avalanche.

Soelden Mayor Ernst Schoepf said 10 to 13 feet of snow covered parts of the Venterstrasse -- a key local roadway leading in and out of the area. The roadway remained closed to traffic early Tuesday afternoon.

Soelden is a venue for top World Cup ski competitions and draws hundreds of thousands of recreational skiers and snowboarders.

Authorities said there was heavy rainfall across the region in the hours preceding the avalanche, and suggested the poor weather might have triggered the slide.

Austria's avalanche monitoring agency issued a warning Tuesday that the risk of snow slides above 5,900 feet was "substantial," and raised the alert level to three on a five-point scale.

Dozens of avalanches occur in Austria each year -- many in spring, when thawing snow and ice pack makes slopes unstable -- and a number of the slides prove fatal. In January, five people were killed on a single weekend, the federal mountain rescue service said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)