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Workers fell a snow covered tree at a local road near Altenberg Workers fell a snow covered tree at a local road near Altenberg 

Europe's worst snowfall in years kills over 20 people

Workers in southern Germany and Austria are among those trying to using a break in the weather to try and clear heavy loads of snow from roofs and roads as Europe's worst snowfall in years has paralyzed travel and tourism in parts of the region and the Balkans. In all, at least 21 weather-related deaths have been reported across the continent in the last 10 days.

By Stefan J. Bos

As the death toll was rising, army helicopters were blowing snow off treetops in Austria to reduce the risk of trees falling on roads and rails.

And helicopters also flew 66 German teenagers out of a mountain guest house where they had been stuck for several days.

It's part of a massive operation to reduce the impact of the once-in-a-generation snowfall that has disrupted life in several European countries.

The snow has been cutting off mountain villages, disrupting transport and triggering avalanches here and in other European nations killing nearly two dozen people.

In neighboring Germany, thousands of people are responding to a state of emergency declared in the German state of Bavaria.

Devastated areas

Moritz Wedel of Germany's Bild newspaper spoke about the seen in the region. "We had catastrophic scenes, on the highways here around Munich," he said.

"There are a lot of traffic jams, there are people killed in their cars. We have one boy killed, yesterday by a tree. That was falling onto the boy because of the heavy snow on the tree. The boy was killed and then later found by his mother," the journalist recalled.

"There are days with snow, coming down also from the mountains covering tourists and people who live here. And it is expected to even get worse in the next couple of days," Wedel added.

Workers at the Hotel Saentis in eastern Switzerland have spent Friday shoveling out hip-deep snow after a 300-meter (330-yard) wide avalanche smashed through the hotel’s windows Thursday afternoon and piled up in rooms and the dining hall.

Balkans suffering

The situation isn't much better in Eastern Europe and the Balkans where the Bulgarian Red Cross said two snowboarders were killed died in an avalanche in southwest Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains.

In nearby Montenegro, the first 10 days of January have been among the coldest the country has seen in decades.

About 2,000 soldiers and other emergency workers in Albania were assigned to help people trapped by snow and to clear roads to
restore access to cutoff villages.

And in areas of for Bosnia-Herzegovina snow disrupted power supplies and cut phone lines. Several towns and cities in southwest Serbia introduced emergency measures, warning of snow piling up on the roads and sealing off mountain villages.

Most schools in the area closed down, and 10 people had to be rescued from their homes. Strong winds have complicated the work of emergency crews.

And more snow is expected.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos
12 January 2019, 17:39