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Six die as avalanches wreak havoc for skiers.

Avalanches swept down Alpine slopes at the height of the ski season yesterday, killing six skiers in Italy and Switzerland.

In Italy, two back-to-back avalanches in the northern Venosta Valley trapped a group of seven Germans and one Italian skiing on an unauthorised route, said alpine rescue official Luigi Weger.

Searchers recovered the bodies of two women and one man and accounted for the remaining five skiers, Weger said. At least one was in hospital with severe hypothermia. The valley is 88 miles from the northern Italian city of Balzano.

In Switzerland, a 200 yard wide avalanche buried two Swiss skiers and a German near the popular eastern ski resort of Davos.

Searchers rescued one slightly injured man immediately after the avalanche.

After hours of searching involving about 100 people backed by search dogs, police said they had determined no one else was missing.

Usually skiers trapped in avalanches are "off piste" - skiing away from prepared areas with packed snow, which is less likely to slide.

But officials said there were indications that the Swiss avalanche may have hit part of the regular slopes.

About five feet of snow has fallen in eastern Switzerland during the past three days and the bright sunshine yesterday was expected to increase the chances of avalanches, said forecasters.

The heavy snowfall had prompted official avalanche warnings.

The avalanche occurred during the height of the season for Davos, one of the most popular skiing areas of Switzerland.

An estimated 15,000 tourists visit the resort each week.

Italian schools are out this week for what's known as "white week," freeing pupils for family ski trips.

Many Swiss youngsters also are given week long school holidays during the winter - most frequently in February - to go skiing.

In 1999, Alpine avalanches killed 12 people in Italy and 36 in Switzerland, according to an Italian avalanche centre.
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Title Annotation:Foreign News
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 22, 2000
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