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Indian mail found in Alps 46 years after crash

A bag of Indian diplomatic mail is set to be delivered more than 46 years late after it was found on Mont Blanc in the French Alps, close to where an Air India plane crashed in January 1966.

Indian mail found in Alps 46 years after crash
The Bossons glacier on Mont Blanc, where the plane crashed. Photo: Daniel D

The jute bag, stamped "Diplomatic mail" and "Ministry of External Affairs", was recovered by mountain rescue worker Arnaud Christmann and his neighbour Jules Berger on August 21.

"Some tourists came and told us they had seen something shining on the Bossons glacier," so he and his neighbour decided to go have a look, Christmann told AFP on Wednesday.

"We found pieces of the cabin, a shoe, cables – it's a real dump up there!"

The two men also came across a plane wheel and, 20 metres (yards) further on, the diplomatic bag that was "sitting as if someone had just placed it there."

"We were hoping for diamonds or at least a few gold ingots. Instead we got some soaking wet mail and Indian newspapers," Christmann quipped.

"It's not the sort of thing you find very often in the mountains – the mail's going to arrive 46 years late."

The Kangchenjunga, a Boeing 707 flying from Mumbai (Bombay) to New York, crashed on the southwest face of Mont Blanc, western Europe's highest mountain, on January 24, 1966 as it descended towards a scheduled stopover in Geneva, Switzerland. All 117 people on board died.

The diplomatic bag was handed over to police in the town of Chamonix at the base of the mountain. The Indian embassy in Paris said Wednesday it had not
been informed of the discovery but that officials would be looking into it with a view to recovering the bag.

In September 2008, well-known climber Daniel Roche discovered Indian newspapers dated January 23, 1966 in the same area.

Roche also came across part of an engine from the Malabar Princess, another Air India plane which had crashed in a virtually identical location in 1950.

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SKI

Dad’s ‘miracle escape’ after being buried by avalanche in French Alps

A man out walking with his family in the French Alps has made a miraculous escape from an avalanche after spending more than two and a half hours trapped under snow, rescuers said.

Dad's 'miracle escape' after being buried by avalanche in French Alps
Ski lifts in France are closed, but visitors and locals are free to enjoy other outdoor sports. Photo: AFP

The 50-year-old father was snowshoeing near the high-altitude Val d'Isere ski resort with his wife and two children on Thursday without anti-avalanche safety equipment.

“Thank to the mobilisation of nearly 100 people… the man was found alive after two hours and 40 minutes of searching,” the police for the local Savoie département announced on Twitter.

Because of the depth of the snow, rescue dogs were unable to detect a trace, but the man was eventually dug out by a specialised mountain police team which used a Wolfhound device to locate his mobile phone under the ice.

“I think it's a miracle,” Alexandre Grether from the PGHM rescue team told the France 3 local news channel, adding that the man was found 2.5 metres (eight feet) below the surface.

The chances of survival after more than 20 minutes in an avalanche are usually slim.

“He was protected by a tree, that's what prevented him from being crushed by all the ice that slid down. The snow had surrounded him, but he had a pocket of air,” he explained.

The victim is expected to make a full recovery after suffering a fracture to his hip.

The avalanche risk on Thursday was at its maximum – five on a scale of five – and rescuers urge people to always check the snow conditions before venturing out.

READ ALSO 'Whole season a write-off' – what next for France's ski resorts?

Ski lifts in the Alps, which have seen some of their heaviest snowfalls in years in January, are currently closed because of restrictions imposed by the government to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Visitors and locals are free to enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, but occupancy levels in hotels and chalets are way down and business owners and seasonal staff face serious hardships.

The government has promised an economic support package for the sector.

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