Rescuers comb Austrian, Swiss avalanches in case of victims

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Rescue forces and helicopters search for missing people after an avalanche swept down a ski piste in Andermatt, Switzerland. PHOTO: AP

VIENNA (REUTERS) - Rescuers hunted for possible victims of three avalanches that hit the Austrian ski resort of Ankogel and one at the Swiss resort of Andermatt on Thursday (Dec 26), injuring at least two people.

After a large avalanche spilled onto the piste at Andermatt, two people were pulled from the snow and taken to Uri hospital with minor injuries, Swiss police said.

Four more were retrieved unhurt, but it was unclear how many others could be buried under the snow, a police spokesman said, adding that a large rescue squad was on the site.

Danger for the area had been at level three on a scale of five, according to the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF), which said fresh and wind-drifted snow was the main threat.

In Austria, three avalanches came down in Ankogel in the province of Carinthia, police said.

One happened outside the secured ski slope and buried two free riders, who were able to escape.

A large rescue team, searching for possible victims of another major avalanche that came down directly on the slope, had not found anyone by afternoon, a police spokesman said.

The avalanche warning level had also been at three on a scale of five, according to Carinthia's warning service.

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