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Czech avalanche survivor gets €12,000 bill

A CZECH tourist set off an avalanche in a mountain in the Low Tatras in mid January and was lucky to survive. The 41-year-old was one of a group of five hikers who decided to walk from Chopok peak via Ďumbier peak to Čertovica in the Low Tatras on January 18.

A CZECH tourist set off an avalanche in a mountain in the Low Tatras in mid January and was lucky to survive. The 41-year-old was one of a group of five hikers who decided to walk from Chopok peak via Ďumbier peak to Čertovica in the Low Tatras on January 18.

In the area called Lukovský kotol (Luková Kettle) the hiker got caught in an avalanche and Slovakia’s Mountain Rescue Service organised an extensive search operation with 30 professional rescuers, 15 volunteers, five dog handlers and a doctor and crew from the Helicopter Medical Rescue Service.

The team searched for the missing Czech in very bad weather conditions, with low visibility and the threat of more avalanches. The avalanche that buried the tourist was about 170 metres long, 50 to 100 metres wide and had a depth of several metres.

“The man was very lucky that he set off the avalanche in the place where he did; if it had happened a few metres further away, he could have fallen off the rock face,” said Michal Matoš, the head of Mountain Rescue Service’s Jasná Regional Centre, as quoted by the SITA newswire. After searching for more than five hours, the rescuers found the man in a completely different gully under a massive snow drift. “At any moment, the drift could have torn off and he could have fallen along with another avalanche,” Matoš stated.

The rescuers took the man to Jasná and reported that he had enormously good luck as he had mostly slid on the surface of the avalanche and suffered just a few injuries. But the huge rescue effort will have an impact on the tourist: he has received a bill for €12,000, the cost of the rescue operation. Because he had no insurance, he will be expected to pay the bill himself.

Jozef Janiga, the head of Slovakia’s Mountain Rescue Service, told SITA that the group of hikers had underestimated the situation as a third level avalanche-threat warning had been announced, meaning that avalanches could easily occur. “The second level is quite OK, and at the fourth level of threat people tend to respect the mountain service warnings; but at the third level people are not aware how imminent the threat is,” Janiga stated. Matoš from Jasná called the hikers’ poor judgment “the courage of the unwitting”.

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