Four French amongst dead in Nepal avalanche

Four French mountain climbers were killed and three others were reported missing in an avalanche in Nepal that claimed at least nine lives, France's national union of mountain guides (SNGM) said Sunday.

"According to information from the base camp, there are seven French victims, including three mountain guides from the Chamonix area and four of their clients," SNGM vice-president Christian Trommsdorff told AFP.

"The bodies of four French have been found, with the three others still missing," he said, adding that rescue operations had been called off for the night and there remained little hope of finding the missing alive.

He also said that "two injured French climbers had been evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu.

A spokesman for the French foreign affairs ministry, meanwhile, put the number of injured at three, without confirming that any French had died or were missing.

In Nepal Ang Tshering Sherpa, vice-president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said most of the dead were French, after speaking to expedition members at the base camp of Manaslu by satellite telephone.

"One or two are Spanish, one Italian, one (Nepali) Sherpa and one German."

Trommsdorff said the French climbers were part of two expeditions, adding that based on information the group received, the avalanche happened Saturday night on the normal path for climbing to Manaslu's 8,156-metre (26,759-foot) summit.

"This avalanche happened at around 7,400 metres and carried away part of camp three at 6,800 metres," he said of one of the worst tragedies in Himalayan mountaineering in recent years.

"This tragedy hits our profession hard, it's the worst recorded death toll since the avalanche accident of Kang Guru in 2005 in Nepal," the SNGM said in statement

The guides group was referring to the powder-snow avalanche that ploughed into a French expedition's base camp on Kang Guru, sweeping all seven members of the team and 11 Nepalese staff to their deaths.

Nepal's worst-ever climbing disaster happened in 1995 when a huge avalanche struck the camp of a Japanese trekking group in the Mount Everest region, killing 42 people including 13 Japanese.

In total, the country is home to eight of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000 metres, including the world's highest, Mount Everest, and attracts thousands of mountaineers every year.

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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.