10 of the world’s deadliest avalanches

Image by Jacky Barrit from Pixabay

10. Blons, Austria

12 January 1954

Death toll: 57

Often considered Austria’s worst avalanche, it consisted of two slides nine hours apart. The first was a dry-snow avalanche that demolished the town of Blons. Following this came another, travelling 1,200 metres in less than 60 seconds, burying the village and the team of rescuers.

9. Washington, USA

1 March 1910

Death toll: 96

Following a nine-day blizzard, with some days seeing 30 centimetres of snowfall an hour, a lightning strike caused a large mass to break from Windy Mountain. The build-up of snow crashed into a train depot. The nearby town of Wellington was later renamed Tye due to negative associations.

8. Siachen Glacier, pakistan

7 April 2012

Death toll: 140

129 soldiers and 11 civilians were killed when an avalanche covered a Pakistani military base and trapped them in deep snow. The incident occurred at an altitude of around 4,000 metres. Rescue efforts were hampered by the freezing conditions.

7. North Ossetia, Russia

20 September 2002

Death toll: 150

After part of a glacier collapsed on Mount Kazbek, 20 million tons of debris began to cascade down the mountainside, destroying several villages. One of the casualties was Russian actor Sergei Bodrov Jr, who was struck along with his crew while shooting a film there.

6. Salang pass, Afghanistan

8 February 2010

Death toll: 165

Several days of heavy snow caused over 20 avalanches in a mountain pass that connected Kabul and northern Afghanistan. aThe avalanche  covered 3.5 kilometres of road in snow and ice and 2,500 people had to be rescued from their cars.

5. Lahaul Valley, India

March 1979

Death toll: 200

During five days of snowstorms in the mountains, a series of avalanches struck the Lahaul-Spiti region of the Himalayas, increasing the number of casualties and resulting in snow six metres deep covering the valley below the peaks.

4. Swiss-Austrian Alps


Death toll: 265

During the ‘Winter of Terror’, the Alps was hit with its worst avalanche season. While the total number of avalanches across the whole year was unrecorded, hundreds of deaths occurred in a three-month period in which 649 avalanches took place across the region.

3. Panjshir, Afghanistan

24-28 February 2015

Death toll: 316

A series of avalanches obliterated 1,200 homes in villages around Panjshir. With limited resources in the country, rescue teams were unable to reach the victims as quickly and efficiently as they needed to, and there was a call for global assistance.

2. Ranrahirca, Peru

10 January 1962

Death toll: 3,500

The aftermath of a snowstorm the day before saw heaps of melting snow tumble down Mount Huascarán, before dropping over 9,000 metres into the canyon below. The avalanche destroyed nine towns and several more villages as it swept downwards for 15 kilometres.

1. Tyrolean Alps

13 December 1916

Death toll: 10,000

During World War I, a combination of heavy snowfall and explosives caused a series of avalanches over a 24-hour period. The victims were mainly opposing Italian and Austrian soldiers. 300 Austrians perished in a single avalanche near the summit of Mount Marmolada.

This article was originally published in How It Works issue 132, written by Ailsa Harvey 

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