France avalanche: Four die in southern Alps

An avalanche warning banner in eastern France Image copyright AFP/Getty

At least four people have been killed in an avalanche in south-east France, police say.

The avalanche hit near the ski resort of Entraunes, in the French Alps near the border with Italy, at around 13:00 local time (12:00 GMT).

One person is thought to be missing and another is injured.

The avalanche struck in an area where people were skiing off-piste near the Mercantour national park, local media report.

A mountain rescue was underway on Friday afternoon, local officials said.

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Media captionCould causing an avalanche save lives?

There have been a number of deadly avalanches in the French Alps this winter, with 16 deaths recorded since the ski season began in November.

A father and daughter were swept away in an avalanche whilst skiing on a closed ski slope near Val d'Isere last week.

Four skiers were also killed last month while on off-piste slopes in the Pyrenees mountains in two separate avalanches.

How dangerous is off-piste skiing?

  • Off-piste refers to any area not marked out and maintained for use by skiers
  • These slopes are not groomed by snow ploughs, so rocks, precipices and cliffs may be hard to spot, especially in poor visibility
  • Avalanches are a major risk as marked pistes are usually protected by controlled explosions and the use of snow ploughs
  • But ski resorts do not have the same responsibilities for off-piste areas

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