French soldiers killed in Alps avalanche | News | DW | 18.01.2016
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French soldiers killed in Alps avalanche

An avalanche in the French Alps has killed several soldiers and left others seriously injured. The accident comes just days after another deadly accident in France killed several people, including two teens.

A deadly avalanche in the French Alps claimed the lives of at least five French Foreign Legionnaires, police sources reported on Monday. A total of six soldiers were injured in the avalanche. Three of them were injured seriously, with one in intensive care due to hypothermia.

Major Herve Pujol of the local rescue services confirmed the avalanche deaths, saying they were part of a 50-person military group training off-piste in Valfrejus in the Savoie region.

The names and nationalities of the victims are not yet known, as the French Foreign Legionnaires recruits internationally. The group was a mixture of both veterans and new soldiers.

Jean-Claude Raffin, mayor of Modane, the closest town to the accident, reported that the group was on out for an all-day backcountry skiing session when the avalanche struck.

The location of the avalanche is well-known for backcountry skiing and is not normally dangerous, said Julien Noel, director of the region's ski area. To be safe, he said, the slopes in the area were now closed.

The avalanche took place in the early afternoon on Monday, 2000 meters (6,500 feet) above sea-level. Three helicopters were used in the search and rescue operation.

Overall, the avalanche risk has been high in the region, due to fresh snow which has fallen in recent days.

Deadly avalanches in the Alps

Another avalanche in the French Alps on January 13 swept away a group of students, killing two French students as well as an adult Ukrainian skier. The 46-year-old teacher who took his students into the closed-off skiing piste was charged with involuntary homicide on Saturday.

"He recognizes his responsibility, he is not in denial. He did not realize the danger because many people had taken this piste over the previous two days," his lawyer Benedicte Tarayre told news agency AFP, adding that he was "shocked" and "angry" by the tragedy.

According to prosecutors, the area was blocked with netting and warnings in four languages but the group climbed over the netting "fully aware" of what they were doing.

rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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