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Six killed as avalanche sweeps French Alps mountainside

<i>domaineskiable/Twitter/Reuters</i><br/>A huge avalanche in the French Alps killed at least four people on April 9.
A huge avalanche in the French Alps killed at least four people on April 9.

By Jennifer Hauser, Sana Noor Haq, Saskya Vandoorne and Xiaofei Xu, CNN

At least six people were killed and several others injured in an avalanche that struck the French Alps over the weekend.

Emergency workers were deployed after the incident at the Armancette glacier near Mont Blanc in southeast France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted on Sunday. Rescue work is ongoing.

Clouds of snow rolled down the mountainside, according to video footage shared by Reuters that was tweeted by a nearby ski station, Contamines-Montjoie.

The avalanche occurred at the glacier on Sunday. The conditions on the mountain were described as “not particularly alarming,” with the president of France’s mountain guide union, Dorian Labaeye, telling France Info that he did not know how such a tragedy could have happened in “good conditions.”

The avalanche spread across an area of 1 kilometer by 500 meters, at an altitude of 3,500 meters (11,480 feet), according to a spokesperson for the local authorities of Haute-Savoie, Reuters reported.

The people swept away by the avalanche were backcountry skiing and the identities of the victims are being confirmed.

The mayor of the town of Contamines-Montjoie, Francois Barbier, told Agence France-Presse it was “the most deadly avalanche this season.”

“It is a very big avalanche on a busy route at this time of the year,” Labaeye said, adding, “We have tens of thousands of people doing ski touring at the moment in the Alps. There are usually lots of people on the Easter weekend and conditions are usually pretty stable at this time of year.”

Labaeye said he did not believe there were any other victims. He said the group impacted was equipped with an avalanche detector, shovels, and probes, which he said “facilitates the work of the rescuers.”

French President Emmanuel Macron sent his condolences to the victims and their loved ones.

“At the Armancette glacier in the Alps, an avalanche has caused casualties. We are thinking of them and their families. Our rescue forces have been mobilized to find people still stuck in the snow. Our thoughts are with them too,” Macron tweeted on Sunday.

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CNN’s Joseph Ataman contributed reporting.

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