All safe after avalanche at French Alps ski resort

2017-03-07 15:40
A February 2017 file photo of the Lavachet Wall at the Tignes ski resort. (Luca Bruno, AP File)

A February 2017 file photo of the Lavachet Wall at the Tignes ski resort. (Luca Bruno, AP File)

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Tignes - An avalanche hit a ski slope in the popular French Alps resort of Tignes on Tuesday but no one was hurt, the resort said.

Police had told AFP earlier on Tuesday that the avalanche, which hit at about 10:00 (09:00 GMT), had engulfed "many" skiers.

Searches later found that no one had been hurt.

"Several skiers were affected who were cared for by resort staff," the resort said in a statement.

"Rescue workers were immediately deployed. After search operations, no victims were found," it said.

The slope is close to where an avalanche last month killed four people who were exploring in an off-piste area.

Rescue workers and sniffer dogs were sent to the scene, but helicopters could not be scrambled because of poor visibility.

TV pictures showed firefighters' vehicles and ambulances at the scene.

Tuesday's avalanche risk - which is normally assessed only for off-piste and closed slopes - was at four on a scale of five.

At level five, all slopes are closed.

Holiday tragedy 

The avalanche on February 13, which hit during school holidays, was a "slab" avalanche, caused when dense wind-packed snow breaks off from a slope.

Rescuers quickly retrieved the bodies because the victims were carrying transmitters designed to assist in locating them.

They had been only a few dozen metres from a ski lift when the 400m-wide avalanche ripped down the mountain.

That incident brought to 14 the number of accidents recorded in the French Alps and Pyrenees so far this winter, claiming a total of seven lives.

Last winter there were 45 accidents and 21 fatalities.

One of the worst avalanches in the Alps in the past decade took place in the summer of 2012 in the Mont-Blanc range. Nine climbers from Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland were killed as they tried to scale the north face of Mont Maudit, which translates as Cursed Mountain.

Avalanches can travel at speeds of up to 400km/h. 

In January, 29 people died in Italy after an avalanche buried a hotel in the central town of Rigopiano.

The force of that impact was calculated by police as being equivalent to the three-storey stone and wood structure being hit by 4 000 fully-loaded trucks.

Most avalanches are the result of a combination of weather and geological factors. In general, an avalanche results from fresh heavy snowfall that fails to stick to snow already on the ground.

Read more on:    france  |  weather

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