PARIS (AP) — At least four skiers were killed in an avalanche Monday in the French Alps near the resort of Tignes, and rescuers say they are trying to dig out five others from the snow with shovels. Many in the group are reported to be related.
By mid-afternoon, the town of Tignes said that chances of finding survivors among those five “are slim.”
The avalanche — about 100 meters (330 feet) wide and 400 meters (1,300 feet) long — struck the mountain about 2,100 meters (6,900 feet) in altitude in an off-piste sector known as Toviere. The area is popular for its extensive slopes and stunning views.
A group of nine people had been skiing off piste with a guide near the main Tignes slopes when the avalanche hit, according to the Republican Company for Alps Security in the town of Albertville.
Many were members of the same family, according to the Tignes statement. The skiers are believed to be French and were equipped with locator devices, it said.
An Alps Security rescue worker said the bodies of the four dead had been retrieved by early afternoon. He said the five other skiers have been located and were “in the process of being extracted” from the snow. The rescuer, who was not authorized to be publicly named, said it is unclear whether all five were still alive.
He said about 40 people were working on the rescue, which involved helicopters and local ski instructors.
The avalanche risk in the area Monday was evaluated at three on a five-point scale. Other slopes at the resort were still open on Monday, the first day of the British winter school holidays.