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Swiss Alps Four skiers die in avalanche near Italian border



An avalanche victim is carried onto a helicopter on the Great St Bernard Pass

An avalanche victim is carried onto a helicopter on the Great St Bernard Pass

(Keystone)

Five people were buried by an avalanche on Saturday afternoon in the region of the Great St Bernard Pass near the Swiss-Italian border. Four of them – two men and two women – died in hospital, according to cantonal police. 

The police confirmed that the victims were Italian and that five people had been buried. All five were dug out alive, but the rescue operation, which included helicopters, had been hindered by poor weather.

Three died soon after reaching hospital and one died overnight in hospital. A fifth skier suffered minor injuries while a sixth person avoided being swept away by the avalanche that struck the group - all in their early fifties and from the Milan region of Italy.

The Italian news agency ANSA said they were part of a ski tour. 

At the time of the accident, the avalanche danger was moderate – two out of five – according to the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Researchexternal link

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Multiple deaths 

Saturday's accident brings the total number of avalanche deaths in Switzerland this season to 25.

At the end of January, 11 people died within three days in avalanches in the Swiss Alps, despite warnings that it was dangerous to ski off-piste. 

An avalanche on the slopes of the Piz Vilan mountain in Graubünden in the east of the country swept away seven members of a nine-strong group of skiers as they were descending at around 2,200-metres. Three died immediately and two later. 

Two people also died in avalanches in the Bernese Oberland: in Mürren a 28-year-old snowboarder was overcome by an avalanche while off-piste, and could not be saved. A 31-year-old man who was skiing off-piste in Adelboden was rescued alive, but later died in hospital. 

Another man died in Wildhaus, Toggenburg, while skiing off-piste. An avalanche was triggered and he fell several hundred metres. Three more people died in avalanches elsewhere.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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