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Man’s avalanche survival astounds rescuers

A skier defied the odds by surviving an unheard-of 17 hours buried under an avalanche in the Swiss Alps this weekend.

The 21-year-old man was pulled from beneath the snow on Sunday, suffering only from mild hypothermia, the police said.

He had been trapped at a depth of about 50 centimetres, and managed to survive thanks to a pocket of air, but the snow above was too heavy to enable him to free himself.

The skier described the experience as one “long, cold night”, and said he now realised he had taken a foolish and dangerous risk.

The man had been reported missing by his family on Saturday afternoon. He had been skiing alone off piste near the village of Evolene in southern Switzerland.

A search was called off overnight for safety reasons, but in the morning a helicopter spotted movement on the surface of the avalanche.

The first few minutes are usually reckoned to be vital in saving lives in cases of avalanches. After 45 minutes the chances of survival are slim.

“I’ve never heard of such a case before,” a police spokesman told journalists.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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