Saturday 18 November 2017

Avalanche kills four on snowboard trip in Alps

Rescuers work on the avalanche site in an off-piste area at Tignes after a wall of snow engulfed four people. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers work on the avalanche site in an off-piste area at Tignes after a wall of snow engulfed four people. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Sylvie Corbet

Four snowboarders died in an avalanche yesterday near the French Alps resort of Tignes.

The avalanche - about 100 metres wide and 400 metres long - struck the mountain about 2,100 metres up in an off-piste sector known as Toviere. The area is popular for its extensive slopes and stunning views.

Initial reports sowed confusion that more skiers had been caught in the disaster, but authorities said the victims had been accidently entered into the skiing database twice.

"We lament the four deceased victims and we think there will be only four It was an avalanche of a huge scale," said Albertville Deputy Prefect Nicolas Martrenchard.

All four fatalities - a 49-year-old instructor, a 48-year-old father, his 15-year-old son and a 19-year-old half-brother - are believed to be French but were not identified by officials by name.

They had been walking off piste - snowboards in hand - with a guide near the main Tignes slopes when the avalanche hit, Mr Martrenchard said, adding that they were equipped with locator devices.

Two were pulled out of the avalanche alive but subsequently died of their injuries.

An Alps Security rescue worker said the bodies of the four dead had been retrieved by early afternoon.

He said about 40 people had worked on the rescue, which involved helicopters and local ski instructors.

The avalanche risk in the area was evaluated at three on a five-point scale.

Other slopes at the resort were still open yesterday.

The avalanche was apparently triggered by skiers higher up the slopes, the resort said in a statement.

It was a so-called "slab" avalanche, caused when dense, wind-packed snow breaks off, the ski resort said. Avalanches can travel at up to 300km per hour.

Since the beginning of the ski season, there had been 13 avalanches in the Alps and the Pyrenees in which three people had died. The previous season there were 45 avalanches resulting in 21 deaths.

Last month, 29 people died in Italy after an avalanche buried a hotel in the central town of Rigopiano.

One of the worst avalanches in the past 10 years took place in the Mont Blanc range in the summer of 2012. Nine climbers from Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland were killed as they tried to scale the north face of Mont Maudit.

Irish Independent

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