At least 20 people have now died across Europe amid a week of heavy snow with two snowboarders becoming the latest victims after an avalanche in Bulgaria on Friday.
Red Cross workers said the snowboarders ignored warnings and went out on the slopes and triggered the avalanche in the southwestern Pirin Mountains, with their bodies discovered around midday.
Meanwhile a power company employee suffered a heart attack while repairing supply lines damaged by the snow in Albania on Friday, in addition to another 17 deaths reported earlier in the week.
Avalanche warnings have been placed at critical levels across much of Europe following heavy snow which has triggered red weather alerts – meaning there is an imminent risk to life.
A state of emergency has been declared across much of southern Germany with troops brought in to help people who have become trapped, while the army has also been deployed in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia.
Three guests at an hotel in the Swiss alps were left injured on Thursday after an avalanche slammed into the restaurant around 4.30pm, burying 25 cars outside.
Swiss emergency crews have launched a search operation after an avalanche crashed through a hotel restaurant (pictured) while guests were eating
Three people were injured when huge amounts of snow crashed through into a dining area at Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Eyewitnesses said at least one person had to be dug out of the snow when the avalanche struck the building. Pictures show how cars were left upturned in a car park outside
A bus was also left covered in snow outside the hotel entrance after the avalanche cascaded down a hillside in Hundwil, Switzerland
Emergency services said they were still searching for people who might be missing in the wake of the avalanche in the municipality of Hundwil
Rescue teams have been battling to clear snow out of the Hotel Santis after a huge avalanche crashed into the building yesterday
A 1,000ft wall of snow thundered into Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp in northeastern Switzerland, with at least one person needing to be dug out of the snow.
Dozens have been evacuated from the 4,265ft altitude skiing resort and pictures show a bus buried in snow near what appears to be an overturned car.
While no hotel guests, skiers or hikers were reported missing, rescue teams have been conducting searches in the avalanche area, which lies at the foot of Säntis mountain – the highest peak in eastern Switzerland’s Alpstein massif.
A hotel guest told the Tagblatt newspaper he looked outside and saw snow swirling all around – initially believing snow had fallen off the roof. Fortunately only a few people were in the dining area at the time.
But the guest added: ‘Then there was a massive noise and a load of snow came in the back of the restaurant.’
Eastern Switzerland and the northern canton Graubünden have suffered from a huge dump of snow over recent days with nearly a metre falling in 72 hours. A further metre of snow is expected to fall in the Hundwil area on Sunday.
According to local media, the avalanche was 300 metres (984ft) wide and up to 5 metres (16.4ft) high. A 76-strong mountain rescue team as well as two search dogs are at the scene.
Meanwhile, in Germany, troops have moved in to rescue people trapped in their homes after heavy snowfall amid warnings Europe’s whiteout will last until at least the middle of next week.
Soldiers used tracked support vehicles to battle through drifts in the town of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps close to the Austrian border.
They were also seen shovelling snow from the tops of buildings as part of their emergency response to the huge downfalls.
Today officials declared a state of emergency in a fourth southern Bavarian district – Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen.
Emergency services said nobody had been reported missing but that their teams would continue to search through the snow and ice
Images show the scale of the avalanche after it cascaded in through the windows of the hotel in Schwaegalp, Switzerland yesterday
The search operation had to be abandoned amid failing light last night, but no hotel guests, skiers or hikers were reported missing
Rescue teams have been conducting searches in the avalanche area, which lies at the foot of Säntis mountain (back centre) – the highest peak in eastern Switzerland’s Alpstein massif.
The road to Hundwil was closed after an avalanche came down, burying cars and part of the restaurant of Hotel Santis
Snow is piled up outside the Hotel Saentis in Switzerland after an avalanche. Police said three people were slightly hurt but emergency crews have been conducting searches in the area
Airlines cancelled around 120 flights at Frankfurt Airport and 90 at Munich Airport on Friday because of concerns about snow, German news agency DPA reported.
In the eastern German city of Chemnitz, all planned burials at the municipal cemetery through until Monday have been called off because of the snow.
Meanwhile in Austria on Wednesday, Australian teenager Max Meyer was killed in an avalanche in St Anton am Arlberg as he was skiing with his family.
His helpless family watched as the 16-year-old Sydney International Grammar School student was buried under a mountain of snow.
The helpless family of an Australian teenager watched in horror as he was buried under a mountain of snow in a deadly avalanche in the Austrian alps.
The family, who were all experienced skiers, had became stuck in ‘rough, untracked and very steep terrain’ at about 4.40pm local time. They made an emergency call, but were soon hit by an avalanche as they waited for rescuers to arrive. Max and his mother were covered with snow but the 55-year-old was able to free herself.
In neighbouring Slovakia, the mountain rescue service said a 37-year-old man was killed by an avalanche in the Mala Fatra mountains.
Snow has caused chaos across Europe including in Austria (pictured) where up to two metres of snow have come down in recent days
Snow covers a chapel in Gerold, Germany, after the country was coated in a thick layer of snow. Weather forecasts warn that a snowstorm could cause roadblocks and increased avalanche danger in many parts of the affected region
A villager walking through deep snow in the Disbudak village of Bingol province located in Eastern Anatolia Region, Turkey today
Workers are pictured clearing a roof in Gerold, Germany. In some areas, the army has been called in to help after heavy snow storms
Snow even fell in Greece where record low temperatures have been recorded. In the town of Florina, a record temperature of -23 degrees was noted, while the lake of Kastoria froze over
A petrol truck fell through the ice on the Aldan River while driving along an authorised river crossing site near the Megino-Aldan settlement in the Tomponsky District of Russia
A seven-year-old child was killed in Aying, near Munich, by a falling tree which was reportedly weighed down by snow.
Several railway lines in the Alps were closed because of the snow, lorries and cars got stuck for hours on a highway in south-western Germany and schools were closed in parts of Bavaria.
Roads into several places were closed although Galtuer in western Austria, where a massive avalanche in 1999 killed 31 people, was reachable again on Thursday after being cut off.
The Austrian minister responsible for tourism, Elisabeth Koestinger, said that ‘in most skiing areas, there is no reason for concern at present if people keep to the rules and don’t leave the secured slopes’.
Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported that the weather was expected to calm on Friday but further heavy snow could be expected on Sunday.
Troops have moved in to rescue people trapped in their homes after heavy snowfall in Germany amid reports Europe’s whiteout will last until at least the middle of next week. Pictured: A tracked support vehicle makes its way along a snow-covered road in Berchtesgaden
Soldiers used tracked support vehicles to battle through drifts in the town of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps close to the Austrian border
They were also seen shovelling snow from the tops of buildings as part of their emergency response to the huge downfalls
A snow-covered car drives along a snow-covered street in the town of Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, last night
The death toll from the severe weather has risen to at least 20 as heavy snowfall continued to cause problems in Austria and southern Germany
A soldier of the German armed forces Bundeswehr leaves the Jaeger barracks in Berchtesgaden to remove snow from buildings in Berchtesgaden
There were reports earlier this week that as many as 350 people were stuck and in need of food supplies in Berchtesgaden
A soldier carries his snow shoes in Berchtesgaden ahead of work to remove snow from buildings in the town
In the Czech Republic, around 9,000 households were without electricity on Thursday after heavy snow in regions bordering Germany and Austria.
On Norway’s Arctic Svalbard islands, more than 100 people were evacuated as a precaution because of a storm and the risk of avalanches. The Svalbard archipelago is 500 miles north of Norway’s mainland.
Norwegian news agency NTB said 29 dwellings at the foot of the Sukkertoppen mountain were evacuated, and a school, kindergartens, a sports facility and public library closed. In the north of mainland Norway, authorities warned of a risk of avalanches.
The Swedish Meteorological Institute on Thursday sent out warnings for a storm and heavy snowfalls over northern Sweden.
Meanwhile, heavy snowfall this week in the Balkans has closed down schools, left some remote villages cut off and disrupted traffic and power supplies in many areas in the region.
Authorities in Bulgaria said two snowboarders died in an avalanche on Friday.
The Bulgarian Red Cross said in a statement that their bodies were found at noon on Friday in the Pirin Mountains in the southwest of the country.
The statement said that the snowboarders themselves had caused the avalanche, apparently ignoring warnings and weather alerts that have been issued by the authorities after snow also caused traffic disruptions and power outages.
Albania also reported a snow-related death on Friday after a power company employee suffered a heart attack while repairing damaged supply lines, according to the government’s energy ministry.
That brought to at least 20 the number of weather-related deaths reported in Europe over the past week.
About 2,000 soldiers and other emergency workers have taken part in nation-wide efforts in Albania to help those trapped in the snow and clear the roads to reach blocked rural areas. Many schools remained closed.
Serbia’s state TV said Friday that six municipalities in the southwest of the country have introduced emergency measures, warning of snow piling up on the roads and sealing off mountain villages.
Most schools there have closed down and emergency crews have distributed supplies to some residents. Strong winds have created occasional snowdrifts, further complicating the situation.
In neighboring Montenegro, three towns on the Adriatic coast remained without electricity on Friday after a snowstorm on Thursday hit a key power distribution line.
Meteorologist Dragan Buric said the first 10 days of January have been among the coldest in the country in decades.
‘We have snow in January the capital city (Podgorica) for the first time in nine years,’ Buric told Montenegrin state TV.
In the central Bosnian municipality of Kladanj, snow has disrupted power supplies and cut phone lines. Zijad Vejzovic, from the local civil protection agency, said authorities have declared an emergency.
‘Because of heavy snow, in some parts over 1 meter-high, some of the roads have been blocked,’ he explained. ‘We need more machines. We have run out of resources and money.’