Avalanches: Three killed in Austria, two killed in France

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Meanwhile, three German cross-country skiers died and a fourth was reported missing following an avalanche in western Austria, police said.

The three dead men, from the Upper Swabia area of south-western Germany, were found around 11 pm (2200 GMT) after one of their wives declared them missing.

Two employees at a ski resort in the French Alps died on Sunday when the avalanche-control charges they were trying to set accidentally went off, mountain rescue experts said.

The two accidents brought to at least 26 the number of weather-related deaths reported in parts of Europe this month.

The group of skiers had avalanche protection equipment and deployed airbags, but were buried by the avalanche and suffered multiple injuries.

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Police said the four friends had skied onto a closed trail.

Police called off the search of the 28-year-old missing German skier because of the risk of further avalanches. They were located with the help of mobile phone tracking.

Forecasters at Meteo France had warned of a high risk of avalanches in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions following fresh overnight snowfall.

On Saturday, authorities in southern Germany and Austria used a break in the weather to clear heavy loads of snow from roofs and roads. In the Bavarian town of Kempten, local authorities closed 11 sports halls as a precaution through Tuesday because the weight of snow on their roofs was expected to increase, the German news agency dpa reported.

The small Alpine resort of Balderschwang on Germany's border with Austria was cut off Sunday after the pass leading to it was closed for fear of avalanches.

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