Five German mountain climbers have died at a popular tourist spot in Austria’s Zillertal Alps, bringing the death toll of this weekend’s mountaineering to eight.
According to Austria’s Red Cross, the five victims were climbing on Mount Gabler, east of Innsbruck, and were roped together when they fell. A major search operation began to recover their bodies and five rescue helicopters were sent to the scene at 9,500ft (2,900m).
“We think a rope may have come loose,” said Anton Voithofer of the Red Cross rescue team.
According to police, six climbers were roped together when one of them slipped, pulling the rest of the group with him. They fell 650ft (200m) down a slope before landing in a crevasse. Only one survived, and was flown to hospital in Salzburg, about 50 miles (80km) away. It is unclear if the group were experienced climbers or had a guide.
The picturesque Zillertal Alps feature deep gorges and are a popular area for hiking and climbing. Officials say the climbers were below the Mannlkarscharte pass near Krimml, in an area where a heightened risk of rockslides made recovery of the bodies more difficult.
The accident is believed to be the deadliest so far this season in the Austrian Alps, where several dozen mountaineers die annually. Three Italian mountain climbers also died this weekend, with two of them falling into a crevasse in the Italian Alps. A third was rescued but later died.