Monday 27 February 2017

Avalanche engulfs skiers on 'closed piste' killing three people

* School group among those swept away
* Three confirmed dead, including two students
* Three more seriously injured
* All missing students now accounted for- police
* Rescuers continue to search for more skiers

Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Major rescue operation in French Alps (Photo: Twitter/ Tim Rhodes/BBC)
Major rescue operation in French Alps (Photo: Twitter/ Tim Rhodes/BBC)

An avalanche in the French Alps engulfed dozens of people including school pupils and a teacher, killing three people and seriously injuring three more this afternoon.

Searches for up to 20 people took place on the mountainside this afternoon, but police said all of the school group have been accounted for now.

However. rescuers are continuing to examine the area this evening for more skiers that may have been buried under the snow.

Among the injured, two people suffered cardiac arrest while another was seriously hurt, police said.

All the casualties have been brought to hospital.

French media said that two of the people who died in the accident were young teenagers travelling with a school group. Two of the victims have been confirmed as 14 and a 16-year-old students.

Images streamed live from the scene in France
Images streamed live from the scene in France

The third victim has been confirmed as a Ukrainian national who was not with the school group.

It is understood the school party were from the Lyon area of France.

The incident took place at a ski resort south-west of Grenoble (Photo: Google Maps)
The incident took place at a ski resort south-west of Grenoble (Photo: Google Maps)

Searches continued for hours after the accident in the Deux Alpes region at approximately 3pm local time, according to BFM TV.

The incident took place near the Bellecombes slope in the Deux Alpes, south west of Grenoble.

Search teams are currently searching the Bellecombes slope area in bottom right of map (Photo: Google Maps)
Search teams are currently searching the Bellecombes slope area in bottom right of map (Photo: Google Maps)

BBC's Tim Rhodes tweeted that he witnessed one person being recovered from the snow.

Rescue helicopters and sniffer dogs assisted search teams in difficult conditions.

Sky News are reporting the local mayor to have confirmed the slope to be closed to skiing at the time of the incident.

It is believed the slope the school group were skiing on was graded as a 'black' slope, which is the steepest rating.

Paris Correspondent with The Independent John Lichfield told RTE Six One this evening the avalanche is understood to have been 'three football pitches wide'.

"This is a closed slope, closed because of the danger there after the first snowfall of the year," he said.

"No one should have been on the slope, let alone a school party of 11 people.

"Three helicopters are hovering over the scene using cameras to detect heat from under the snow.

"I am not sure of this group's skiing ability but it was a group of young teenagers, boys and girls aged 13 and 14 years old.

"One of the reasons it is very difficult to locate the missing people is because the avalanche is believed to have been three football pitches wide," he continued.

"With this particular distance a lot of rocks came down also and this area would be extraordinarily deep.

"It is absolutely incomprehensible that a group will head down this slope at ten to four in the afternoon, with darkness about the fall, and to be so high on what were closed black-graded slopes."

Local authorities have warned people to be aware of the high avalanche risk in the area at the moment.

Due to recent weather conditions and a low snowfall over Christmas, which causes an unstable base for recent snowfall, the area currently has a 4/5 avalanche risk rating.

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