Skiers and Snowboarders Caught in Massive Slide in Austria

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Niedersill, Austria, Mar. 28 (AP by Kerstin Joensson)--An Alpine avalanche as wide as five football fields buried more than a dozen skiers underneath tons of snow Tuesday, killing at least 11 people, rescue officials said.

Ten people were found dead in the area of the huge snow slide south of Salzburg. Another died later in a hospital. Two others were able to free themselves while rescuers dug out a third survivor, state television said in its evening newscast.

A search continued for another possible victim.

Some of the victims were in training to be ski instructors. One trainee told state television the slide was caused by an instructor whose skis set loose a wall of snow. However, the Austria Press Agency said two snowboarders had apparently started the avalanche and might have been among those killed.

All the victims were from Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, the television report said. But the news agency said one of the dead was a Dane.

Seven helicopters assisted more 150 rescue personnel looking for victims in the Zell am See area, about 30 miles south of Salzburg. Specially trained avalanche dogs, which can sniff out people buried in the snow, also were on the scene.

It was the fourth major deadly avalanche in Austria in a little more than a year.

Two snow slides on Feb. 23, 1999, killed 38 people in the region of Galtuer, in Tyrol. In December, two more avalanches in Tyrolean skiing areas killed 11 other people.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press