French Alps on red alert as avalanche threat reaches ‘exceptional’ level

The Savoie region of the French Alps was placed on red alert for avalanches on Monday after heavy snowfall had raised the danger level to "exceptional" - which reportedly only happens around once every 30 years.

French Alps on red alert as avalanche threat reaches 'exceptional' level

The country's weather agency Météo France placed the department of Savoie on red alert – the highest warning level – on Monday afternoon due to the heightened risk of avalanches caused by heavy snow.

The agency described the danger as of “exceptional intensity” and said numerous avalanches were expected on Monday evening.

More than 1,800 of these avalanches could take unusual trajectories and may hit roads and villages, the agency said.

Meanwhile the Hautes-Alpes department is on orange alert (one level below red) for avalanches and the Alpes-Maritimes is on orange alert for avalanches and storms.  

The public are advised to avoid high roads in the area and to heed the safety advice in ski resorts.

The heightened danger has been caused by heavy snow in recent days and more is forecast to fall between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

The mountains most affected are the massifs de Haute-Maurienne and Haute-Tarentaise, which includes the ski resorts Bonneval and Bessans and Tignes and Val D'Isere.

Various roads have been blocked in the region with villages cut off.

The avalanche risk is expected to recede on Tuesday late morning.


Skiers in France warned over dangers after another deadly avalanche in Alps

Skiers in France are being warned to take the "utmost caution" especially when skiing off-piste after another deadly avalanche left at least tow dead in the French Alps on Sunday.

Skiers in France warned over dangers after another deadly avalanche in Alps

Two skiers from France and Belgium were killed in avalanches in the French Alps on Sunday while three other people remain missing, a local official said.

The deaths add to the toll in the French mountains from avalanches since Friday.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb,  on Twitter, urged all those taking part in winter sports to act “with the utmost caution.”

It is essential to follow the signs put up by local authorities “to avoid putting yourself in danger and endangering rescue teams”.

The two skiers died during simultaneous avalanches around lunchtime, while skiing off-piste from the Vallorcines resort  in the Chamonix-Mont Blanc region.

One of the skiers was dug out of the snow alive but died hours later in hospital, The second, the Belgian skier was found dead.

Another Belgian in the same group was injured.

An hour earlier, at Samoens near the Swiss border, a Swiss hiker was swept away by another avalanche. Bad weather forced searchers to abandon their efforts to find him later in the day.

The man's wife was also buried in snow but escaped with only minor injuries.

“We are pessimistic about his chances as he has already been five hours under the snow, ” an Haute-Savoie regional official told AFP at 1700 GMT

In neighbouring Savoie rescuers were looking for two missing skiers, aged 47 and 49, who were caught in an avalanche off-piste at Planay in the
Tarentaise Valley in the heart of the French Alps.

On Saturday two Spanish skiers were killed when an avalanche hit a group skiing off-piste on a mountain in southeastern France.

A day earlier four skiers were killed in the Mercantour National park in the French Alps, the deadliest avalanche of the winter so far.