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Avalanche sweeps away hiking group in Austrian Alps

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A sign saying "danger of avalanches" in Weissbach near Lofer, Austrian province of Salzburg, Jan. 11, 2019.(AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
A sign saying "danger of avalanches" in Weissbach near Lofer, Austrian province of Salzburg, Jan. 11, 2019.(AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)   -   Copyright  Kerstin Joensson/AP
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Six people were killed in two separate avalanches in the Austrian Alps on Sunday, Austrian authorities said.

Five snowshoers who were hiking in central Austria were hit by one avalanche at about 9:30 a.m., Austria's APA news agency reported. Police said it happened in the Dachstein area, while AFP reported that it was at an altitude of 2,800 metres.

Several people witnessed the avalanche and immediately informed emergency services, but the hikers, believed to be from the Czech Republic, were already dead by the time rescuers got to them. Their bodies were taken to the village of Hallstatt.

There had been high winds and heavy snowfall in the area over the past few days, leading to the avalanche.

In southwestern Austria, a police officer who was undergoing Alpine training was killed when he was hit by a separate avalanche. He was hit by a large piece of frozen snow and died at the scene from his injuries, state authorities told APA.