alpe alps snow.jpg
Photograph: EPA/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

A large avalanche in the Austrian Alps killed five skiing enthusiasts from the Czech Republic on Saturday and injured two, investigators in the city of Innsbruck said.

The injured were not in a life-threatening condition. The remaining members of the 17-strong tour group were uninjured.

The snow buried the whole group, all Czech nationals on a skiing holiday near the Innsbruck, which is the capital of the Tyrol region, when the avalanche hit at 12:45 pm (1145 GMT).

The group, all experienced skiers, had been warned of the heightened risk of avalanches before they went up the mountain.

The Czech skiers were in two groups on a steep slope on the way up the 2,800-metre high Geier mountain when they were struck by the avalanche, which police said was several hundreds metres wide and equally long.

The scene of the accident is a training area for the Austrian Army that is also used by ski tour groups, ORF broadcaster reported.

The avalanche occurred near the village of Wattenburg some 25 kilometres from Innsbruck in the west of Austria.

The well-equipped group has returned to the Lizumer alpine association hut in the Tux Alps for many years, owner Anton Nigg told dpa. He said the group consisted of 15 men and two women.

"I told my guests that I would not go today," Nigg said, adding that he posts an avalanche report every day and also talks to every skier about the possible dangers.

The risk of avalanches in Tyrol on Saturday was significant at level three on the five-point hazard scale. There had been snow slips the whole day in the popular skiing region near the German border.

Martin Waldhart of mountain rescue said at a press conference that the group had been in an "absolute risk zone."

Another skier had seen the avalanche from a distance and alerted the emergency services. Investigators were looking into whether the Czechs had caused the avalanche themselves.

Rescue teams used specially trained dogs and four helicopters as part of the operation. Some of the skiers had managed to free themselves before the rescue workers arrived.

There was also a heightened risk of avalanches in the German Alps, according to the avalanche warning service in the city of Munich. An individual skier or snowboarder could set one off above 2,000 metres. The situation was made worse by mild temperatures during the day and strong sunshine, the service warned.

Related stories

Latest news

Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom protections

The Trump administration on Wednesday withdrew Obama-era guidance about the use of school and university bathrooms by transgender students, local media reported.

Several Dakota Access Pipeline protesters arrested as deadline passes

Several people at a camp protesting against a controversial oil pipeline in the US state of North Dakota were arrested Wednesday after a deadline to vacate the land passed, local media reported.

Germany deports 18 rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan

A Kabul-bound plane with 18 Afghan migrants on board took off from Munich Airport late Wednesday, its passengers becoming the third group of rejected asylum seekers to be deported by German authorities back to Afghanistan.

New Romanian justice minister named after anti-corruption protests

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has named a former judge to be the country's next justice minister, after the previous office holder resigned under pressure from mass anti-corruption protests.

Le Pen's chief of staff indicted in European Parliament jobs probe

The chief of staff of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for president in upcoming French elections, was indicted Wednesday over allegations of irregular reimbursements from the European Parliament, a judicial source told dpa.

Montenegrin police extradites Miodrag Jovic to Croatia

Montenegrin police reported on Wednesday that they extradited to Croatia Miodrag Jovic (48) from Glina, after whom Interpol Zagreb issued an arrest warrant.

Croatian minister attends CoMoCoSEE conference in Albania

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek participated in a third conference of the Council of Ministers of Culture of South-Eastern Europe (CoMoCoSEE) that took place in Tirana on February 21-22.

New Somali president asks al-Shabaab to surrender to 'help' country

Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asked Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab to surrender in order "to help rebuild" the conflict-ridden East African nation.

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.