Heavy Snow Hits Austria, Shuts Down Key Rail Line

January 9, 2012

A major east-west railway route in western Austria was shut Saturday following heavy snow in the popular Alpine skiing region.

Railway operator OeBB said the line between Oetztal and Bludenz – part of a route that connects Vienna and Innsbruck with Austria’s western tip and Switzerland – was expected to remain closed until Sunday afternoon.

Two other rail lines connecting Tyrol province with southern Germany also were shut down. Overhead wires in the area have been damaged by falling trees.

Heavy snow has blanketed Tyrol and neighboring Vorarlberg, Austria’s westernmost province, over recent days, leading to several road closures and an elevated risk of avalanches.

A military helicopter was brought in Saturday to pick up 52 people who had been stranded for two days at a mountain refuge in Vorarlberg, provincial government official Erich Schwaerzler told the Austria Press Agency.

Schwaerzler said they had been unable to make the descent from the Lindauer Huette refuge, which is 5,720 feet (1,744 meters) above sea level, by any other means because of the avalanche risk.

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