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Six climbers killed in Austrian Alps avalanche

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VIENNA – Six mountain climbers were killed in an avalanche near the ski resort of Soelden in the Austrian Alps at the weekend, regional police said Sunday.

VIENNA – Six mountain climbers were killed in an avalanche near the ski resort of Soelden in the Austrian Alps at the weekend, regional police said Sunday.

Witnesses spotted the snowslide in glacier-dotted highlands Saturday and alerted alpine rescuers but they could not reach the scene by helicopter until Sunday due to poor weather, police in the Tirol provincial capital Innsbruck said.

A police official said rescuers retrieved the bodies of six climbers at 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) altitude near the top of Schalfkogel mountain south of Innsbruck between Soelden and Obergurgl ski resorts close to the border of Italy.

Police identified the dead as five Czechs and one Slovak with the help of a surviving member of the group who had opted out of the ascent and remained behind in a mountain hut.

Local officials said fresh snowfall Saturday had aggravated the risk of avalanches and no one should have been attempting a high-altitude climb.

It was the deadliest avalanche in the Alpine republic since March 2000, when 12 people were buried in a snowslide above the alpine town of Niedernsnill.

The Austrian Alps received unusually heavy snowfall this winter and avalanches have been frequent and sometimes fatal, killing mainly individual skiers who had ventured off patrolled slopes to tackle deep powder drop-offs.