Ski Instructors Mourn Loss of Colleagues


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Niedernsill, Austria, Mar. 29 (AP by Kerstin Joensson)–Storms and dense cloud cover in the high mountains delayed the search today for a snowboarder reported missing after an Alpine avalanche buried skiers beneath tons of snow, killing at least 11 people.

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.

Authorities had spoken of two missing snowboarders but by this afternoon they said only one appeared to be missing, based on a missing person report filed with local police.

Additionally, another person may also have been buried by the avalanche, which swept down the Kitzsteinhorn mountain Tuesday afternoon.

The search was suspended at sundown Tuesday and was to have resumed at dawn today. But operations were delayed after storms in the area severely reduced visibility. Officials said the risk of further avalanches was high.

Officials said the weather was so stormy that it was unlikely the search could be resumed today. The forecast for Thursday called for no improvement in conditions.

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

Flower-decorated coffins containing the bodies of nine of the victims were brought today to a church in Niedernsill for an ecumenical memorial service later in the afternoon. The two others have already been transferred to their families, officials said.

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 two snowboarders had apparently started the avalanche and were believed buried under the snow.

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

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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