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Rescue operation Second avalanche victim found dead, two still missing

men and dogs searching in snow

Avalanches have already claimed lives in Switzerland this winter

(Keystone)

The body of a second skier has been found following the big avalanche that swept four people away on Friday afternoon.

A second body was found on Saturday afternoon, following a first victim that was found overnight. The two were identified as French from Alsace, aged between 20 and 25. Their bodies were found under 6 metres of snow.  

The avalanche occurred on Friday afternoon in the Vallon d'Arbi external linkregion near to Riddes in canton Valais. This is situated near to the popular Verbiers ski resort in the French-speaking part of southwest Switzerland. 

Rescue operations were suspended mid-afternoon on Saturday because of bad weather.

A spokesman for Valais cantonal police said earlier on Saturday that after so many hours buried under snow, it was unlikely that anyone would be found alive. 

The avalanche covered a distance of about 400 metres, starting at an altitude of about 2,200 metres. One person managed to avoid being swept away and two managed to extract themselves.   

The search party has so far included members of Air Glacier, Air Zermatt, police and dogs with handlers. 

Switzerland has experienced unusually high levels of snow this winter, which has raised avalanche warnings to the maximum alert in several areas.

Earlier this year, thousands of tourists were cut off in the popular resort of Zermatt as the risk of avalanches twice forced the authorities to close of rail and road links. The resorts of Saas-Fee and Andermatt were also snowed in for a period.

Avalanches have also claimed lives in the Swiss Alps this winter.

SDA-ATS/jc

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