Snow slide kills farmer, third storm-linked death in France

  • AP Photo/Michael Probst A woman fights herself through a heavy storm on top of the Feldberg mountain near Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday.

BERLIN — A 50-year-old farmer was found dead Thursday under a snow slide in the Savoie region of the French Alps, the third death in France since winter storms began battering northern Europe this week.

Heavy rainfall in recent days has led to flooding in many parts of Germany and France, which also faces the risk of avalanches in the Alps. More rain is forecast for Friday in both countries.

In another somber discovery, the body of a 93-year-old woman was found in southeastern France after her house flooded by a river. And a search team that included helicopters and dogs was trying to locate a firefighter who managed to save a family of three that was stranded atop their car in a torrential river in eastern France before being swept away himself.

The Interior Ministry said the Alpine farmer was found dead near Bonneval-Sur-Arc and the firefighter disappeared in the swirling waters of the overflowing La Breda River some 30 kilometers (19 miles) away.

It was not immediately clear whether the elderly woman who died in the eastern Isere region succumbed to a heart attack or drowned.

A skier was also killed Wednesday in the French Alps by a falling tree at the Morillon resort, which was closed Thursday.

In western Germany, the Mosel River was closed to all shipping, with water levels 4 meters (13 feet) higher than usual. The Neckar River in the southwest was closed between the cities of Mannheim and Heilbronn.

Along the lower reaches of the Rhine, water levels were predicted to rise until the weekend, the German news agency dpa reported. Ships along the busy waterway near Cologne were ordered to reduce their speed and remain in constant radio contact with authorities.

In northern Italy, officials warned of a high risk of avalanches after days of heavy, wet snow already set off one avalanche that killed a mother and her daughter on an off-piste ski run.

Officials at the weather center in Bolzano put the risk of an avalanche Thursday at 4 on a scale of 1-5 along the Cresta di Confine on Italy’s border with Austria.

Cervinia ski authorities closed the main road leading in from Valtournenche.

On Wednesday, a German woman and her 11-year-old daughter were killed while skiing in Val Venosta, northwest of Bolzano.

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