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Days of Catastrophe - White Death
Year: 2010
Run-Time: 1 x 50 min.

Directed by Sabine Zink and Gerhard Jelinek

ORF
Available for Europe

Languages: German (ORIGINAL) , English (DUBBED)
Format: 16:9 , 16:9 , 16:9

Days of Catastrophe - White Death

Katastrophentage - Tod im Schnee

It was the Alps' greatest avalanche catastrophe. In January 1954, thirteen avalanches laid waste to entire villages in the state of Vorarlberg's Walsertal region. In the hardest-hit village of Blons alone, 118 people are buried in their houses. A second avalanche, nine hours later, buries most of the rescue teams. Eventually, 55 victims are recovered dead, and another two remain missing. The terrible result of this infamous winter of avalanches: more than 260 buried alive, 45 seriously injured, and 125 dead - mostly killed in their crushed homes. It was the biggest natural disaster in the Eastern Alps after World War II. Helicopters of the French occupying forces and American soldiers on the ground assisted in the rescue effort. The catastrophe of Blons prompted the construction of avalanche protection throughout the Alps. The inhabitants of the alpine valleys had lived with the «White Death» for centuries, accepting avalanches as an act of fate. The higher-situated villages of the Walsertal still offer a glimpse into the traditional, almost archaic life of today's mountain population. Survivors of the catastrophe of Blons talk about living and dying in that terrifying time, of shrugged-off warnings, neglected dangers, and how the sorrow was overcome. Rescuers speak of their helplessness in the face of utter destruction and its human cost. This documentary ties into the bestselling book «Der Atem des Himmels» («The Breath of Heaven») by Austrian former rock singer Reinhold Bilgeri. Bilgeri, whose mother survived the catastrophe in Blons, takes us on a journey through his village and his past. The film adaptation of his book is scheduled for release in autumn 2010.

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