Six skiers, including two guides, have died after being caught in an avalanche in the French Alps on Sunday.
The disaster happened at the Armancette glacier, near Mont Blanc in south-eastern France, at about midday local time.
It was a sunny day and skiing conditions had been described as “good” before the avalanche struck.
Another injured person was taken to hospital, while eight others swept up were unharmed.
Among the victims was a couple in their 20s, a 39-year-old woman and a man in his early 40s who was “probably” her partner and two guides, local prosecutor Karline Bouisset said.
The avalanche was caused by a slab of snow detaching from the top of the mountain, according to Jean-Luc Mattel, an official of the nearby Contamines-Montjoie village.
Mountain rescue teams were joined by search and rescue dogs as they worked on Sunday and Monday morning to reach those who were caught.
Mr Mattel said the risk level on Sunday morning was “reasonable” and the guides, both of them locals, were highly experienced. The group are all thought to have been back-country skiing – when skiers go on unmarked or unpatrolled areas.
“Today, we are mourning, and there is great sadness among all of us mountaineers, friends of Les Contamines, those who died are people we knew, and all our thoughts go out to their families,” he said.
The mayor of Contamines-Montjoie, Francois Barbier, told the AFP news agency he thought it was the “most deadly avalanche this season”.
France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, and French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed their sympathy.
Before the incident, a nearby ski resort called Les Contamines-Montjoie posted a video on social media showing a huge wall of snow moving down from the Dômes de Miage, of which the glacier is a part.
It is not clear if the video shows the avalanche in which the people died.
One eyewitness told France Television that she was hiking just in front of the Armancette glacier when she saw the avalanche happening and took out her phone to film it.
“I had put the phone in front of me, but then I was looking with my eyes more than in the lens and suddenly there was a huge, huge, huge cloud that came down to the bottom, it split into two,” she said.
“I think of the families, I think of the people, of those who got out of it, who had the fright of their life, of those who are still there.”
The nearby resort urged people to be careful if they were venturing off-piste – away from the prepared ski runs.
Officials have told AFP that a further avalanche could not be ruled out.
Two brothers died in an avalanche on the same glacier in 2014. They were both experienced mountaineers and had been properly equipped.
Source : BBC News