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ALPS

Four climbers killed in accidents in French Alps

Four climbers -- including an Italian man and two French women -- died in the French Alps on Sunday in three separate accidents, the local prosecutor's office said.

Four climbers killed in accidents in French Alps
AFP

A 40-year-old Italian climber from Milan died in a fall after reaching a height of 3,000 metres (9,840 feet) in the Coolidge Couloir which leads to Mount Pelvoux, a mountain in the Massif des Ecrins.

Emergency services attempted to revive him but he was pronounced dead.

Two French women aged 48 and 54 were killed as they climbed with a mountain guide towards Breche de la Meije, a high mountain pass also in the Massif des Ecrins in southeast France.

“The man was roped with the two women and was in the lead. When he tried to secure himself on a block of rock, it broke off…,” the Gap prosecutor's 
office said in a statement.

The 32-year-old guide survived but was injured and taken to hospital in Grenoble.

A climber died in another incident on Mont Blanc although there were no further details on the accident.

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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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