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Missing Italian Alpinists elude searchers

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11:21 CET+01:00
Fears for two prominent Italian heart specialists and a guide missing in the French Alps mounted Friday as rescue workers continued to search in vain for any trace of them.

Hopes the three experienced climbers, who have been missing since Sunday, could have taken refuge in a mountain hut situated at an altitude of 2,410 metres were dashed after a helicopter was able to access the area.
 
"We didn't find anything, either in the refuge or along the established descent routes," helicopter pilot Bruno Berjat told AFP.

The area being searched was not accessible by path because of a high avalanche risk.

A dog trained to find people buried by avalanches was being dispatched by helicopter to help the search.

Italian media have identified the three men as Damiano Barabino, a cardiologist in Genoa, Francesco Cantu, a senior heart surgeon from Lecco and Luca Gaggianese, a mountain guide from Milan.

The trio set out on Sunday and successfully completed an extremely difficult ascent of the Barre des Ecrins, a 4,102-metre peak, before going missing on their descent.

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