Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 10:32 UK

Five French die in Alps avalanche

Map showing Alps along French-Italian border

The bodies of five French mountaineers killed by an avalanche in Italy's northwestern Alps have been found, rescuers say.

The group was hit by the avalanche on Wednesday in the Gran Paradiso National Park, near the French border.

The expedition was at an altitude of some 2,500m (8,000ft) when the avalanche struck.

The group's French guide was pulled from the snow after being spotted by a helicopter on Wednesday night.

Fierce storm

He is being treated in hospital in the nearby town of Aosta.

The bodies of the five climbers were found at the bottom of a gorge, according to rescue officials who said they had been dragged down some 150m (500ft) by the force of the avalanche.


French Alps recovery operation

Massimo De Michela, a rescue official in Turin, told the Associated Press that a mass of snow fell on the group from a 3,300m peak where fresh snow had recently fallen.

According to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper, the group of five climbers and their guide had set off for the difficult climb across the Alps on Wednesday afternoon.

There was a fierce storm later and, when they failed to arrive at a mountain refuge at the expected time, the manager sounded the alarm.

The initial search, which managed to locate the group's guide, had to be called off after nightfall due to bad weather on Wednesday.

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