Three skiers have been killed and two injured in an avalanche in central Austria, Saturday, in Salzburg province. They were part of a group of 11 skiers. Eight of them were hit by a roughly 200-meter (655-foot) wide slab of snow as they ascended a slope. Three of the skiers were buried by the avalanche. Rescuers were able to locate two of them with the help of their search devices; one was already dead and the other later died at a hospital in Klagenfurt. The third buried skier wasn’t carrying a search device. His body was located after about four hours. The victims were Austrian men, two of them aged 19 and the other 24. The 19-year-old Rene Hofer, a junior motocross world and European champion, was among the dead. Two injured skiers were taken to a local hospital.
Snow avalanches claim an average of 100 lives in Europe every year. During the last 50years, an average of 30 persons per year was killed by avalanches in Austria. It is reported that in Alpine countries (such as Austria) the number of fatalities is more or less constant over the time. Snow avalanche risk has an important impact on human life. The biggest avalanche events in Austria were in 1950/1951 (135 fatalities), in 1953/1954 (143 fatalities) and in February 1999, when 38 persons were killed in Galtür and Valzur. The climate change is expected to play an important role increasing the risk for unexpected avalanches to occur.