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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 16:11 GMT
Three killed in Alpine avalanche
Helicopter search, St Anton
Alpine authorities have issued alerts to ski resorts
Avalanches in the French Alps have left three skiers dead and a fourth badly hurt, say emergency services.

A cross-country skier was killed near La Plagne, while two off-piste skiers died at Val Thorens and Les Arcs.

At Val d'Isere, several skiers were hit by another avalanche and one of them was seriously injured.

Alpine resorts are on alert after huge snowstorms hit the region over the past week, causing massive disruption and a number of fatal avalanches.

In Austria, police are still searching for a missing skier from the United States who was swept away in a huge avalanche on Saturday at St Anton in the western Tyrol mountains.

Three Canadians died in the same incident, while some other skiers are reported to have climbed out of the deep snow.

In another avalanche on Saturday, a German snowboarder was killed in Montafon in Austria's western Vorarlberg region.

Austrian authorities recently launched a new service that uses mobile phone text messages to deliver avalanche warnings to skiers and snowboarders on the slopes.

But emergency workers say people are taking unnecessary risks to find virgin snow.

"If they lack knowledge and the necessary background information, then it's just carelessness - pure and simple," Alpine gendarme Roland Mattle told Austrian television.

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