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Avalanche claims two lives in Alps

Two trainee priests have died in an avalanche after a fierce winter storm left most regions of the Alps loaded with dangerously unstable snow.

The storm on Tuesday night brought winds of up to 174km/h and prompted warnings of more slides from forecasters at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos.

Four French seminarians from the Society of St Pius X were caught in an avalanche at least 100 metres wide in the southern canton of Valais on Wednesday afternoon. Their group of seven had been snowshoeing at 2,200 metres en route to a mountain hut near Siviez.

Another man was injured and one is still missing, according to the rescuers. The brotherhood on Thursday would not comment on the accident.

The society made recent headlines when Pope Benedict XVI reinstated four controversial bishops from the group who had been excommunicated. One of them, Richard Williamson, has made statements denying the full extent of the Nazi Holocaust.

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