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Austrian mountain rescue service records more missions in 2023

Austrian mountain rescue service records more missions in 2023
Austrian mountain rescue service records more missions in 2023

The number of operations increased by three percent last year.

It is not the tourists in flip-flops that the mountain rescuers have to thank for the most calls. “That’s a cliché. The main causes of accidents are stumbling, falling and slipping in hiking terrain,” says Christoph Preimesberger, regional head of the Upper Austrian mountain rescue service, in an interview with the OÖN. The second most common reason for the emergency services to be called is medical emergencies, such as cardiovascular problems or neurological failures.

According to Preimesberger, the “more spectacular” rescue operations are the exception in terms of numbers. “Climbing accidents, falls into crevasses or avalanches do not occur that often, but they mean greater stress for the mountain rescuers. With avalanches in particular, there is a strong time-critical factor and usually many people are involved at once.”

  • Also read: Barefoot walker rescued from Traunstein in heavy rain and darkness

Numbers also rise in Upper Austria

The nationwide trend towards a significant increase in operations is also reflected in Upper Austria. With 565 calls and 661 people rescued, the numbers last year were higher than ever before. And the trend is continuing, according to Preimesberger: “Mountain sports are booming, whether it’s cycling or ski touring.” Whereas there used to be seasonal peaks, the mountain offering has now developed into a year-round program. As the number of people increases, the number of accidents naturally increases, says the mountain rescuer.

The 861 trained members of the Upper Austrian mountain rescue service are available for rapid deployment 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The proportion of women among the emergency services is constantly growing. There are now 50 female mountain rescuers working in Upper Austria.

47,000 injured per year

However, not every injury on the mountain appears in the mountain rescue figures. Many accidents are not reported to the police or handled by the mountain rescue service. In order to determine the number of unreported cases, regular surveys of accident victims and projections are carried out. “We therefore know that around 47,000 people in Austria are injured so seriously each year while skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountaineering, climbing and mountain biking that they have to be treated in an ambulance or in a hospital,” says Johanna Trauner-Karner, head of the sports and leisure safety department at the Road Safety Board (KFV).

Networking and prevention of emergency organizations is “extremely important so that emergencies do not occur in the first place and the burden on aid organizations is relieved,” said Franz Ruf, General Director for Public Safety, at an event organized by the mountain rescue service, KFV and the Austrian Alpine Safety Board (ÖKAS). Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) described the work of the 13,000 volunteer mountain rescuers as “indispensable.”

Raising awareness and prevention

Across Austria, 9,997 people were rescued or recovered last year – eleven percent more than in the previous year. 273 people could only be brought back to the valley dead, 26 of them in Upper Austria. Alpine emergency organizations emphasized their desire to push ahead with the expansion of prevention measures.

Many mountain fans are not yet aware of the dangers. “When I plan a hiking or climbing route, I should always think about how I will get down from the mountain,” says Preimesberger. A very formative experience for the mountain rescuer was the rescue of a Czech mountaineer from the 800-meter-high lake wall near Hallstatt. “We had to pull the injured woman up 100 meters with a rope,” says Preimesberger. Because she could no longer walk on her own due to her ankle injury, the helpers had to carry her for three hours to the next hut. “Such a mission is very exhausting and really takes its toll.”

Number of volunteers increased

However, the mountain rescue service does not seem to have to worry about a lack of new recruits. “We are very pleased that the number of our volunteer members has again increased slightly in the past year,” said Stefan Hochstaffl, President of the Austrian Mountain Rescue Service. In order to be able to deal better with stressful operations, professional support for such situations is being expanded, it was said.

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