• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
The worst avalanches to ever hit the French Alps
The carnage from a 1970 earthquake. Photo: AFP

The worst avalanches to ever hit the French Alps

The Local · 19 Jan 2016, 14:10

Published: 19 Jan 2016 14:10 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Jan 2016 14:10 GMT+01:00

The French Alps have played host to a horrific January so far, with two avalanches over the past week taking eight lives, including two high school students and five French Foreign Legionnaires.

Four others were swept away in separate incidents earlier in the month. 

But the country is no stranger to deadly snow-slides on the slopes of the French Alps, where tens of thousands head each year to enjoy winter sports.

Here are some of the deadliest avalanches to take place southeastern French Alps.

February 10th, 1970

1970 was a devastating year for winter holiday-makers in France. On the morning of February 10th, 42 people were killed and 60 left seriously injured when a devastating avalanche crashed into a hotel at the fashionable Val d’Isere ski resort in the northern French Alps. 

The victims, many of them young people simply had no time to react. The then president Georges Pompidou declared it a national tragedy and ordered numerous other hotels to be evacuated amid fears of further avalanches.

April 16th, 1970

Barely two months later, 71 died at Plateau d’Assy, in the foothills of Mont Blanc, although technically it was a landslide that caused the disaster, rather than an avalanche.

Among the victims were 56 children. A year after these tragedies, France created the National Research Association for Snow and Avalanche Studies to try to prevent further tragedies.

January 23rd, 1998

Nine young students between the ages of 13 and 15 and two chaperones were killed in an avalanche while snow-shoeing near Orres in the Hautes Alpes département. Their mountain guide was sentenced to two years in prison following the incident.

February 9th, 1999

Photo: AFP

An avalanche left 12 people dead and 20 cabins destroyed in the village of Le Tour, near the popular Chamonix ski resort. This followed a snowfalls of nearly four meters in just 15 days. 

August 23rd, 2008

Eight mountaineers, five Austrians and three Swiss, were killed in a huge summer avalanche on the north face of Mont-Blanc du Tacul in the Mont Blanc range. The snow slide was started by a chunk of ice that broke off from the mountain. 

March 11th, 2009

Photo: AFP

Three high-school pupils and their professional guide were killed in an avalanche while backcountry skiing near Valmeinier in Savoie. Weather conditions were bad that afternoon, with thick fog making it difficult for the rescue helicopters to reach the surviving students.

July 12th, 2012

Nine international mountaineers were killed at Mont Maudit, in the Mont-Blanc massif, making it the deadliest avalanche in ten years. Among the victims were Swiss, German, British, and Spanish nationals.

January 24th, 2015

Last year was another particularly dangerous one for skiers and mountain climbers. Six members of a French mountaineering club were killed on the Massif du Queyras, a mountain that claims about 30 victims each year. 

April 1st, 2015

Later in the spring, a dozen foreign skiers were swept down the Massif des Ecrins, a popular skiing and climbing location. Two Austrians and one Italian were killed. This came just eight days after another tragedy in the region, the shocking Germanwings plane crash

September 15th, 2015

A group of seven mountaineers died a few months later, also on the Massif des Ecrins. Four of the victims were German and three came from the Czech Republic.  Another German woman survived the avalanche but sustained a serious leg injury.

If you're a skier or winter mountain climber, have a look at our article on how to avoid deadly avalanches and what to do if you’re caught up in one. 

By Katie Warren
 

Today's headlines
Hopes hit as France reports 'disappointing' zero growth
Photo: AFP

Hopes of small economic growth in France were hit on Friday when the latest GDP figures were announced.

Air France strike affects 30,000 passengers each day
Photo: AFP

The week-long Air France cabin crew strike continued on Friday with some 30,000 passengers hit by cancellations each day.

Mother of French priest killer left stunned and in denial
Photo: AFP

French police have formally identified the second attacker who killed a priest in northern France on Tuesday. And his mother has said he was her "gentle child".

Johnson hails France in Paris (while speaking French)
French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault (R) shakes hands with Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson (L). Photo: AFP

VIDEO: A British Foreign Minister who speaks French. Fancy that.

Should you really go to the Bayonne Festival?
A bullfighter and a crowd at this year's festival. Photo: AFP

Should people boycott the Bayonne festival in France because it features bullfighting? Many think so.

Le Thought du Jour
Sorry Donald Trump, but 'France IS still France'
Photo: AFP

Donald Trump reckons 'France is no longer France', because his friend said so. We don't agree.

France to create new National Guard 'to protect its citizens'
Photo: AFP

France will soon have its own National Guard the president announced on Thursday as he aims to boost security to protect the French population facing repeated terror attacks.

French teens storm police barracks in hunt for Pokemon
Photo: AFP

The arrival of Pokemon Go in France has landed people in all sorts of trouble.

Corsican militants warn 'Islamist radicals' over attacks
Photo: AFP

Militants warn violent extremists that any attack would be met by a "determined response".

Shareholders revolt sees French exec's pay slashed
Photo: AFP

Renault cuts its CEO's salary after a revolt from shareholders.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
France: A timeline of terror since the Charlie Hebdo attack
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
A timeline of terror in France since Charlie Hebdo
Culture
Thirteen free and easy ways to learn French
Culture
32 mistakes foreigners make when they arrive in France
National
Here are the worst scams to avoid whilst driving in France
Analysis & Opinion
Isis can simply be a conduit for the violent desires of psychopaths
Features
Six outdoor bars in Paris you simply must visit
Culture
The open-air Villette cinema has been cancelled over security fears
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Culture
Henri Rousseau exhibition proves huge hit in Paris
National
Frenchman caught trying to sell Nice massacre souvenirs online
Society
OPEN NOW: Here's why you should head to the Paris Plages
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
What's on in France: Still plenty to see and do in July
Lifestyle
Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Nice attack: What we know so far
National
Nice attacker: Body-building, drug-taking, violent flirt
National
IN IMAGES: Drawings in tribute to Nice attack victims
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Promenade des Anglais: The iconic heart of the French Riviera
France faces more questions after latest deadly attack
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Why is France the target of choice for jihadist attacks?
National
Nice truck attack: 'Bodies went flying like bowling pins'
Nice attack: Families of missing make pleas on Twitter
Politics
Boris Johnson cheered and booed at Bastille Day party
2,757
jobs available