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Six killed in avalanche on Jungfrau

The six who died were climbing on the mountain Keystone

An avalanche in central Switzerland has killed six mountain climbers.

Two rope teams of three climbers were hit by an avalanche on the southwest flank of the Jungfrau peak, the Swiss air rescue service Rega said.

“The people who were in the avalanche were killed,” said spokesman Thomas Kenner.

The accident took place at 10am local time, 90 kilometres southeast of the capital Bern.

The climbers were scaling the 4,158-metre mountain by a standard route, according to René Feuz of the Lauterbrunnen rescue station. They had reached a height of 3,800 metres when fresh snow dislodged, sending them plummeting into the valley below.

The bodies of all six victims had been recovered, Feuz added.

The Swiss army was unable to confirm initial reports that the victims were recruits on a training exercise.

“We fear that recruits from mountaineering units were involved,” army spokesman Daniel Laroche said.

He said a patrol of six men was in the area at the time of the accident.

Heavy snowfalls

Ueli Steck, one of Switzerland’s most accomplished climbers, told swissinfo that a lot of snow had fallen in the Alps over the past couple of weeks.

This coupled with warmer temperatures would have given rise to a “totally unstable snow structure”, he said.

“So much snow has been falling during the week and this has been the first day of good weather. The possibility of an avalanche would be high and this kind of thing can happen,” said Steck, who set a new speed record on the infamous Eiger North Face in February.

Steck, who lives in the nearby town of Interlaken, said the southwest flank of the Jungfrau was the normal route up the peak. He described it as an easy day climb that could be accomplished by beginners.

“You get a lot of traffic up there. It is one of the most standard routes in the Bernese Oberland,” he said.

“It is not known for being a particular hotspot for avalanches, but accidents can happen at any time, on any route.”

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR