Snowboarder Still Missing After Austrian Avalanche

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Zell Am See, Austria, Mar. 30 (AP)--Thick fog and a mixture of rain and snow grounded helicopters Thursday, preventing rescuers from continuing the search for a snowboarder reported missing in a deadly avalanche that killed at least 11 people.

Police officials in Zell am See said the poor weather conditions and high risk of further avalanches would prevent the search from continuing Thursday. They had no other reports of anyone else missing, although state police believed there could be more.

Ten people were found dead in the area of the huge snow slide south of Salzburg and another died at a hospital. Two others were able to free themselves while rescuers dug out a third survivor from the avalanche, which swept down the Kitzsteinhorn mountain Tuesday afternoon.

Most of the victims were training to be ski instructors. They included six Austrians, one Slovak, two Finns, one Belgian and one Dane.

The search was suspended at sundown Tuesday and was to have resumed at dawn Wednesday, but stormy weather since then has severely reduced visibility, forcing the search to be postponed. Authorities expected it could continue Friday.

Anyone still buried under the thick wall of snow would have virtually no chance to survive.

Police were interviewing a 23-year-old Czech who survived the avalanche and remained hospitalized in Zell am See, to try to determine how it began.

One trainee told Austrian state television the slide was caused by an instructor whose skis set loose a wall of snow. However, the Austria Press Agency said Thursday two snowboarders had apparently started the avalanche and were believed buried under the snow.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press