Swiss police say 6th hiker dies after snowstorm in Alps
Rescuers stand near an avalanche site near Fiesch, Switzerland, Sunday, April 1, 2018. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)
Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, May 1, 2018 9:36AM EDT
GENEVA -- The death toll after an unexpected snowstorm trapped a group of Alpine hikers in southwestern Switzerland increased to six, Swiss police said Tuesday. The victims were identified as five Italians and a Bulgarian woman.
The regional Valais police department said one other person remains in critical condition following the sudden blast of snow and high winds in the Pigne d'Arolla region, about 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Switzerland's famed Matterhorn.
The storm left a total of 14 hikers spending the night from Sunday to Monday out in the cold with no shelter.
Police spokesman Markus Rieder said a 52-year-old Bulgarian woman died in a hospital Tuesday. Two Italian couples -- in their mid-40s and mid-50s -- also died from hypothermia after being evacuated to the hospital in a rescue operation involving seven helicopters.
The sixth victim was a 59-year-old Italian man, who was guiding a group of 10 hikers and fell to his death at the site.
Police said a 72-year-old Swiss woman, a 56-year-old French woman, and a 43-year-old Italian woman remained hospitalized Tuesday.
The sudden bad weather trapped two groups of hikers who had been trying to reach the Vignettes hikers' hut at 3,157 metres (10,357 feet) in the Alps, forcing them to spend the night exposed to the elements amid freezing temperatures.
Three French people, a German woman and an Italian man suffered mild hypothermia.
Europe has experienced turbulent weather recently, with unseasonable spells of hot and cold temperatures.
In a separate incident in Italy, authorities said two Italian skiers fell hundreds of meters (feet) to their deaths during while skiing in the Dolomite mountains, in the province of Belluno, Italy's Ansa news agency said.
The two skiers were described as experienced members of Alpine rescue squads, but who were doing recreational skiing Tuesday when they fell.
Frances D'Emilio contributed to this report from Rome