Swiss say Alpine avalanche risk at highest level

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) -- Swiss authorities have raised the avalanche threat to its highest level in parts of the country following unseasonably heavy snowfall.

The Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos says up to 32 inches (80 centimeters) of fresh snow on Monday have strongly increased the risk of large avalanches. The avalanche risk level now stands at 5, or very high.

The institute says the southeastern part of the canton (state) of Valais is at greatest risk. The area includes Switzerland's iconic Matterhorn range.

Each year dozens of people die in avalanches in Switzerland.

A slide Sunday killed a 60-year-old woman in eastern Switzerland. Rescuers are still searching for a man who was swept away while ice climbing in Valais.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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