At least four killed in avalanche in French Alps

Rescue crews are pessimistic about finding family of five still buried under the snow

At least four killed in avalanche in French Alps

Tignes ski resort

 

At least four people have been killed and several others feared to have been swept away after an avalanche near a French ski resort.

Rescuers are continuing to search for anyone trapped beneath the 100m wide snowslide which hit an off-piste slope known as Toviere, near the ski resort of Tignes, close to the Italian border.

Staff at the resort saw the wall of snow barrel down the mountain at 9.35am on Monday and raised the alarm.

Two helicopters, diggers and sniffer dogs are helping around 100 rescuers with shovels - including volunteers - search for survivors.

A snowboarding party were on the slopes below the avalanche, which started at about 2,100 metres.

It was reportedly set off by another group of skiers higher up on the slopes.

Of the fatalities, two skiers were initially pulled out alive but died shortly after being rescued, said police.

It was initially thought more had been buried by snow but authorities said later that the victims names had been entered into a database twice. 

Avalanche at Tignes: A rescue helicopter can be seen in the top left of image. Credit: Clive Lew

The avalanche hit the alpine skiing station at a busy time, with families flocking to the resorts during the school half-term holidays.

The nationalities of those caught in the huge cascade of snow and ice is not yet known.

However, BFM News reports that the five people still buried under the snow are thought to be a French family who were holidaying at the resort.

Tignes, along with the neighbouring resort of Val d'Isere, is part of Espace Killy, one of the largest ski areas in the world.

Around four inches of fresh snow fell on the slopes of the resort last week and more is forecast this week.

The risk of an avalanche had been at three on a scale of five, with a strong wind and warmer temperatures increasing the likelihood of one occurring, according to experts.