A group of skiers had a miraculous escape on Thursday when they were caught up in an avalanche in the Swiss town of Andermatt.
Police and rescuers launched a search amid fears people were buried beneath the snow, but after four skiers managed to pull themselves to safety,Â the operation ended with police saying there were no more victims.
The avalanche occurred mid-morning when the slopes were busy, forcing many skiers to stop and start digging for people who may be buried under the heavy snow. Two people were confirmed injured.
A police spokesman said the avalanche was of a considerable size. It occurred just before 11am on slope number 30 in the Oberalppass area, according to witnesses.
It is not known how many skiers, if any, remain buried under the avalanche debris. But a video shows dozens of skiers being caught in the avalanche that started high up a mountain in an unpisted area and hit an open piste.
Rescuers will continue searching until the debris is totally clear.
Local reports said that six skiers were rescued from the snow by the afternoon, all of them Swiss.
Footage shared on FacebookÂ showed the moment the huge mass of snow descended on the slope.
A British skier on the ground said he had just skied down slope number 30 when the torrent of snow fell on to the piste.
He told the ‘It happened at a really busy time in the morning so there were lots of people on that slope – it could have been 100 people or ten people. It’s hard to know,’ he said.
‘There seemed to be quite a lot of people searching on the piste and they were digging for at least two or three people.’
He said other skiers then just started digging randomly in the snow to try to find anyone buried but few knew what had happened.
Heavy snow in recent days had seen the avalanche danger raised to level three, meaning significant danger, according to the DPA news agency.
The two people who were slightly injured were flown to a hospital by the Alpine rescue service.
A large rescue squad is carrying out the search with considerable resources and will carry on tomorrow if necessary.
Anne Jehn, director of Andermatt Ski Academy, was on the scene shortly after the avalanche hit and worked with her students to rescue a woman from the snow, according to NBC News
Jehn said: ‘She was ash gray. Shocked. But I guess she’ll be okay.’
Meanwhile in Austria today, three avalanches came down in Ankogel in the province of Carinthia, a police spokesman said.
One happened outside the secured ski slope and buried two free riders who were able to free themselves.
More than 60 rescue workers, helicopters and dogs are searching for people who might have been buried under a major avalanche that came down directly on the slope, he said.
It was too early to say anything regarding potential fatalities.
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