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Austria army rescues snowbound German students

The army said it used two helicopters to transport the group of 66 pupils and teachers from the central ski station of Kasberg in Gruenau.

A street sign reading "danger of avalanches" stands on a snow covered street on 10 January 2019 in Vordernberg, Austria. Picture: AFP

VIENNA - Austrian troops airlifted a group of German students stranded at a snowbound ski resort Friday, as emergency services scrambled to clear record snowfall across large parts of the country.

The army said it used two helicopters to transport the group of 66 pupils and teachers from the central ski station of Kasberg in Gruenau.

It had been cut off for days due to the heavy snowfall covering much of the west and centre of the country.

The group, from Dortmund in western Germany, arrived there last Saturday, but the station was forced to shut a few days ago due to the risk of avalanches, falling trees and power blackouts.

Austria has been hit by record snowfall for more than a week. Many roads have been impassible because of a lack of the road salt needed to grit them.

A break in the weather enabled soldiers, firefighters, other public employees and volunteers to clear some of the snow on Friday, but more is expected at the weekend.

Some 500 soldiers have been drafted in to clear roads and roofs in the most heavily affected areas, and a further 1,000 soldiers are on standby, the government said.

Much of the country is on its highest avalanche alert level, with seven skiers and snowshoe hikers having died since Saturday and two hikers missing.

Most of the victims perished in avalanches but emergency services say two of them died when falling into deep snowdrifts and suffocating.

The women's World Cup downhill and Super G championships, scheduled to be held in St Anton this weekend, have also been called off.

Another resort, Loser, in the central region of Styria, was totally submerged in five metres of snow.

The bad weather has also affected the south of Germany, where the army has also been called in to help.

A number of motorists were trapped in their cars overnight on the A8 motorway to the south east of Munich and 90 flights were grounded at Munich airport on Friday.

A nine-year-old boy was killed on Thursday by a tree that collapsed under the weight of the snow.

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