Friday, 30 September, 2022

One dies as landslides hit Austrian villages

One dies as landslides hit Austrian villages
A van and a horse trailer are stuck among debris and streaming water after landslides due to heavy rains cut off access in Treffen, in the Villach-Land district of the Carinthia state, Austria, on Wednesday. — AFP Photo

VIENNA: One person has died, while another has been reported missing, officials said on Wednesday, after landslides caused by heavy rains cut off access to several communities and waged widespread damage in southern Austria, reports AFP.

Record rain falls overnight Tuesday to Wednesday sparked the landslides, sending mud and debris into populated regions and causing stream banks to burst in the mountainous Villach-Land district in Carinthia state, which borders Italy and Slovenia.

"One person has been found dead unfortunately... outside the home," a police spokeswoman, who declined to be named, told AFP.

She added that authorities were still looking for another person who has been reported missing while travelling in a car. Austrian news agency APA said the dead victim was a 82-year-old man.

"Three villages have been completely cut off... the army and firefighters are trying to clear the streets" to gain access, said Melanie Reiter, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Carinthia.

District head Bernd Riepan said "many" houses had been partially buried, though the exact number was not yet known.

Photos showed debris-strewn streets and houses partially submerged in water and mud in Villach-Land.

"We are fighting on several fronts," Riepan told AFP.

"We have dispatched several helicopters... but some of the farms are very remote, and they have yet to be reached."

President Alexander Van der Bellen called the destruction in Carinthia "dramatic", appealing to people to take care of themselves and others.

Another community in adjacent Salzburg state was also put on alert as a stream passing through it was threatening to burst its banks, according to the Austrian news agency APA.

In some areas of the region, there has never been such a large amount of rain in such a short time since the start of measurements, according to the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG).

ZAMG said it rained as much in just a few hours as it does for the entire month of an average June.

Austria is currently experiencing a heatwave and authorities have warned of thunderstorms.

Experts say climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and other extreme weather events.