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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Grim search after Russia avalanche
Trail of destruction from the avalanche
A massive mudslide came tumbling down the mountain
Rescue workers in southern Russia are continuing the search for bodies following a powerful avalanche which hit a village late on Friday night.

Around 100 people are missing after the deluge of ice and mud swamped the village of Karmadon in the republic of North Ossetia.

Rescue workers load up equipment into a van
It is feared few will survive being buried by up to 130 feet [40 metres] of debris
Five bodies have so far been recovered, Russian television channel NTV reports.

Local officials had earlier said that 17 bodies had been found.

About 30 people have been found alive and taken to safer locations.

There are continuing fears the number of missing will increase as the area is a popular tourist destination and many people come on Fridays for the weekend.

North Ossetia's President, Alexander Dzassokhov, said he feared those buried would have little chance of survival as they were covered in up to 130 feet (40 metres) of debris.

"It's unprecedented, even in our mountain region," he told Russian television.

"The avalanche brought down millions of tonnes of ice."

'Earth tremor'

The avalanche travelled down the mountain at about 35km/h, smashing everything in its way - houses, trees, cars - and leaving a trail of utter devastation.

One eyewitness told state television that he heard a sound like warplanes dropping bombs.

"You couldn't do anything, it was all over in a moment," he said.

The avalanche is thought to have been triggered when a piece of a glacier - perhaps as much as a third of the entire glacier - broke off from the Caucasus mountains and slid down to the village below.

BBC correspondents say an earth tremor appears to have caused the piece of glacier to break off.

Authorities have also been monitoring the mass of ice, concerned it may shift or melt and send millions of gallons of water into the nearby village of Gizel.

There are reports that lakes are being formed by the melting ice and are threatening to flood several villages.

Around 3,000 of the village's inhabitants have been evacuated as a precaution, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Film star and crew missing

Around 60 tourists have also been evacuated from the region, although none are thought to be injured, Interfax reported.

Among the missing is a well-known Russian actor, Sergei Bodrov, and some of his crew of more than 30 film-makers, Russian news agencies say.

Earlier, erroneous reports indicated he had contacted emergency services to say he was safe.

Seven crew members who had not been with the main group survived, some reporting that Mr Bodrov had driven off with the others not long before the avalanche hit, Russian news agencies said.

BBC correspondent Nikolai Gorshkov
"It travelled 33 kilometres smashing everything in its way"
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23 Sep 02 | Europe
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