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Thursday, February 11, 1999 Published at 15:06 GMT

World: Europe

Five killed in new avalanches

Rescuers scrabble through the snow-covered remains of a chalet

Five more people, including one Briton and one Australian, died in two new avalanches in the French Alps on Friday, bringing the death toll to 17.

French police said three people were swept away in an off-bounds area near Les Arcs and two others died in another avalanche in the fashionable resort of Val d'Isere.

Gendarmes said Australian Anthony Thorburn, 23, and Briton Catherine Ovington, 27, were swept to their deaths by an avalanche triggered by other members of their skiing group at an altitude of 2,100 metres in Val d'Isere.

Three French people - two men and a woman all in their 50s - were buried six metres deep in an avalanche just hours later 2,900 metres high in Les Arcs. They were in a group of eight accompanied by a mountain guide.

Meanwhile, rescue workers found the 12th and final victim of the first deadly avalanche which hit villages near Chamonix earlier this week.

Angus Roxburgh: "The disaster zone still remains out of bounds for all except the rescue workers"
The 17-year-old boy has not been identified, but is understood to be related to a young woman whose frozen corpse was found on Thursday.

Earth movers and snow ploughs were used to remove thousands of cubic metres of snow and debris piled on top of the youth.

Two walls of snow, six metres high, crashed into the villages of Le Tour and Montroc-le-Planet on Tuesday.

Worst avalanche for 90 years

The avalanches - the worst in the Chamonix area since 1908 - destroyed 17 chalets, killing 12 people, including four children.

[ image: A survivor leafs through a photo album found in the rubble]
A survivor leafs through a photo album found in the rubble
As the 12th body was discovered residents of the nearby village of Argentiere were paying their respects to a husband, wife and daughter who died in the disaster.

An 11-year-old boy was orphaned by the tragedy.

Ski slopes in the Chamonix valley have been shut down as fears of further avalanches persist in the area.

On Thursday morning panic spread through the village of Les Boissons, after another snowslide.

Cheating death

BBC Correspondent Angus Roxburgh: tragedy could have been worse
A 12-year-old French boy, who cheated death by clinging to a piece of fallen concrete, is among the 28 people rescued at Le Tour. He is being treated for hypothermia.

Mechanical diggers are being used to remove the debris of the chalets, some of which were swept 100m (330 feet) by the force of the avalanche.

Our correspondent says questions are being asked about the wisdom of building resorts in areas at risk from avalanches, although the Le Tour region was previously considered safe from such a disaster.

Experts have attributed the freak occurrence to the three days of exceptionally heavy snowfalls preceding the avalanche.

The avalanche came during the first week of the French school winter holiday.

Heavy snow has also badly affected much of Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany.

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