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No victims after avalanche hits French Alps resort

Several skiers were engulfed, police said.

Update 11.35am

AN AVALANCHE THAT hit a ski slope in the popular French Alps resort of Tignes this morning did not claim any victims, police say.

“Several skiers were affected who were cared for by resort staff,” the resort said in a statement at 11.30am, adding:

Rescue workers were immediately deployed. After search operations, no victims were found.

The avalanche hit at about 10am (9am GMT).

It had been reported that a number of people were “engulfed” by the snow. Rescue workers and sniffer dogs were deployed, an AFP journalist said at the scene.

Poor visibility had earlier preventing the deployment of rescue workers by helicopter to the scene, which is close to where an avalanche last month killed four people who were exploring in an off-piste area.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish Embassy in Paris is monitoring developments.

Anyone affected by the avalanche and who requires consular assistance or has any concerns should call the Irish Embassy in Paris on 01441 – 76700.

Today’s avalanche risk — normally assessed only for off-piste and closed slopes — was at four on a scale of five. At level five, all slopes are closed.

Holiday tragedy

A previous avalanche at the resort on 13 February, which hit during school holidays, was a “slab” avalanche, caused when dense wind-packed snow breaks off from a slope.

Rescuers quickly retrieved the bodies on this occasion because the victims were carrying transmitters designed to assist in locating them.

They had been only a few dozen metres from a ski lift when the 400-metre-wide avalanche ripped down the mountain.

That incident brought to 14 the number of accidents recorded in the French Alps and Pyrenees so far this winter, claiming a total of seven lives.

Last winter there were 45 accidents and 21 fatalities.

One of the worst avalanches in the Alps in the past decade took place in the summer of 2012 in the Mont-Blanc range. Nine climbers from Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland were killed as they tried to scale the north face of Mont Maudit, which translates as Cursed Mountain.

Avalanches can travel at speeds of up to 400 kilometres per hour. In January, 29 people died in Italy after an avalanche buried a hotel in the central town of Rigopiano.

The force of that impact was calculated by police as being equivalent to the three-storey stone and wood structure being hit by 4,000 fully loaded trucks.

Most avalanches are the result of a combination of weather and geological factors. In general, an avalanche results from fresh heavy snowfall that fails to stick to snow already on the ground.

 - © AFP, 2017

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