Entraunes, France

By March 3, 2018 No Comments

Police in France say at least four people have died in an avalanche in the southern Alps near the border with Italy. A rescue operation is underway for another person believed to be missing.

An avalanche swept through an area near Entraunes in the French Alps on Friday, killing at least four people, police said in a statement.

One person was taken to hospital with injuries, while the group’s guide escaped unharmed. Another individual is still unaccounted for.

The group was reportedly skiing off-piste in a remote part of the Mercantour National Park when the avalanche struck just after midday. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told reporters that a rescue operation was underway.

“These valleys are highly popular with off-piste skiers because it’s beautiful and wild,” said Christophe Ollivier, a local official in nearby Vesubie.

The region has been blanketed in heavy snowfall brought by the so-called “Beast from the East” — a blast of Siberian icy weather moving across Europe. According to Jean-Gabriel Delacroy of the Alpes-Maritimes prefecture, warmer temperatures since Thursday have destabilized the fresh buildup of snow.

A total of 20 people have died on mountain slopes since France’s ski season began in November. Last month, an avalanche swept away a man and his 11-year-old daughter in the alpine resort of Val d’Isere. A number of other skiers were also killed in separate incidents in the Pyrenees.

Guided groups

Despite careful planning and local knowledge avalanche deaths sadly also happen in guided groups.

Changing temperatures

Sudden temperature changes may cause instability in the snow layers and increase the risk of avalanches. Warm weather in the spring months may cause wet slab avalanches.