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NORWAY

Swiss hikers die in Norway avalanche

Five people died, four Swiss and one French, after an avalanche hit an expedition on a mountain in northern Norway on Monday, Norwegian authorities said.

One member of the group made up of five Swiss nationals and one French guide was dug out of the snow alive and hospitalised in an unclear condition, according to authorities.

According to police, the avalanche occurred early on Monday afternoon at an altitude of about 1,000 metres on the Sorbmegaisa mountain in the Kåfjord municipality, and swept away half of a 12-member expedition in the area who were probably travelling on skis.

The expedition had split into two six-person groups each made up of five Swiss nationals and one French guide.

Police said all of the 12 had been wearing radio transmitters, which helped the search.

“The guide in the group that was not hit by the avalanche made sure the others in his group were in safety and then went back to the site of the avalanche to take part in the search,” Antoine Gosset, the first secretary at the French embassy in Oslo, told AFP.

Rescuers found the body of the fifth victim under several metres of snow several hours after the avalanche swept down the mountain.

“I can now confirm that five people have been found dead,” Astrid Nilsen of the police in the northern town of Tromsø told AFP on Monday evening.

“The search is over and we are now going to work on identifying the victims,” she added.

The Swiss embassy in Oslo was not able to provide any information on the matter.

Avalanches are common in Norway at this time of year as blocks of snow and ice begin crumbling under the first rays of spring sun.

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AVALANCHE

Weather warning: Part of Swiss Alps placed on high avalanche alert

Due to the heavy snowfall in recent days and more expected until the weekend, an avalanche warning is issued for Switzerland’s southern canton of Valais.

Weather warning: Part of Swiss Alps placed on high avalanche alert
Avalanche warnings should be taken very seriously. Photo by AFP

Valais authorities said the current avalanche risk level is between 4 and 5, meaning ‘high’ to ‘extreme’.

The population is urged to stay at home. When out, they should obey the signs and especially stay away from the avalanche corridors, officials warned.
 

Significant amounts of snow have fallen in the area in recent days, dumping 1 metre of snow above the altitude of 2,000 metres in the upper part of the canton. Between 30 and 40 centimetres are still expected. 

The highest risk of avalanches is in the Goms valley, the Zermatt valley, as well as the entire right bank of the Rhône. 

Some particularly threatened areas could even be evacuated, authorities said.

People planning to go skiing in Valais over the next few days should check snow conditions and avalanche warnings in place, especially as many roads, mainly in Upper Valais, are cut off, and a number of villages in the Goms Valley, Lötschental and the Zermatt region are no longer accessible by road or train. 

The Avalanche Bulletin is a good source of information not just for Valais, but for all of Switzerland’s mountain regions.

READ MORE: Is the pandemic to blame for Switzerland's spate of avalanche deaths? 

Avalanches have been particularly deadly in Switzerland this winter, having claimed 14 lives so far — well above the average yearly figure of eight people.

Avalanches have caused casualties in the mountains of Valais, Vaud, Graubünden, Obwalden and Schwyz. 

With many people concerned about the potential for contracting coronavirus on the slopes, the idea of skiing off piste has become more attractive. 

But this practice can trigger massive avalanches, so it is crucial to stay away from unsecured slopes.

READ MORE: Large crowds on Swiss ski slopes spark concern over coronavirus spread 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 

 

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