Austria avalanche sweeps away 17, killing 5

Five Czech skiers were killed in a huge avalanche that swept away their group of 17 in the Austrian skiing region of Tyrol on Saturday, police say.

Avalanche near Innsbruck reportedly 2 kilometres wide and 5 metres deep

Mountain rescue service personnel search for Czech skiers who were trapped in an avalanche in a valley of the Tyrolian municipality of Wattenberg, Austria, on Saturday. Five people were killed. (ZOOM.TIROL/Associated Press)

Five Czech skiers were killed in a huge avalanche that swept away their group of 17 in the Austrian skiing region of Tyrol on Saturday, police said.

The avalanche, which the regional TV station ORF Tirol said was two kilometres wide and five metres deep, came down shortly after noon at the Wattener Lizum region, about 40 kilometres southeast of Innsbruck.

Two people were injured but out of acute danger, while 10 others survived unharmed, police said.

The experienced Czech skiers were taking part in a so-called "freeride camp" and had been repeatedly warned about the danger by locals, according to ORF.

The entire skiing region had been on a 'level three' avalanche alert, out of a maximum five, and several avalanches were also reported elsewhere. 

Tirol police spokesman Helmut Schuetz told The Associated Press the skiers were moving in two separate groups of twelve and five when the avalanche hit them.

"It was many tons of snow," he said.

Mountain rescue service personnel search for Czech skiers who were trapped in the avalanche. (ZOOM.TIROL/Associated Press)

With files from The Associated Press

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