News outlets from Switzerland are reporting that the death toll from Sunday’s terrible storm in the Pigne d’Arolla region has risen to seven. Skiers and mountaineers were left dead after an unexpected snowstorm engulfed part of the Swiss Alps, preventing the groups from reaching their destinations and forcing them to spend the night outdoors.
A group of 14 skiers became trapped at 10,728 feet on Pigne d’Arolla in the Swiss Alps and had to spend the night outside. One was found dead at the scene when rescuers arrived on Monday morning while four more died after being taken to hospital, with a further four still in a critical condition.
A pair of mountaineers, aged just 21 and 22, were also caught in the storm and died after spending the night outdoors. The pair, from Switzerland, and reported as missing on Sunday evening with their dead bodies retrieved on Monday, are too suspected to have succumbed to cold weather and exhaustion.
The emergency services had to struggle through difficult weather conditions to get to the stranded mountaineers and the skiing party, scrambling seven helicopters in order to locate and reach them.
Initially, there was only one fatally and police said “the person died as a result of a fall”. But tragically the body count soon increased with victims from Germany, Italy and France, although officials are still working on identifying them and have set up an emergency hotline for the family members.
The other members of the group escaped with mild hypothermia and are not said to be in critical condition, with an investigation now launched into the tragedy.
Robert Bolognesi from the agency Meteorisk said the storm started on Sunday afternoon with temperatures suddenly dropping at high altitudes to as low as minus 10 degrees with wind chill worsening the situation.