THREE people have died in the French Alps after an avalanche engulfed a group of 10 schoolchildren and their teacher.
One French 14-year-old student, another pupil, thought to be a 16-year-old girl, and a Ukranian not skiing with the group died during the avalanche in the popular ski resort of Les Deux Alpes in the Isére region of the Alps.
At least three are said to be seriously injured, with two in cardiac arrest, while another five were rescued after they were swept away at about 4pm local time (3pm GMT).
Police said the school children as well as 10 others had been rescued but search and rescue teams are working into the night to find another person missing following the devastating avalanche.
Four victims were found by ski patrol, including an unconscious adult with multiple injuries suffering from cardiac arrest on top of the snow.
One student’s heart is said to have stopped.
They were taken to hospital in Grenoble by an emergency rescue helicopter.
French President, François Hollande tweeted his sorrow at hearing the news.
He said: “I extend my sincere condolences to relatives of victims of the avalanche in Les Deux Alpes and assure them of the solidarity of the whole nation.”
The secondary school pupils were on a ski trip from the Saint-Exupéry High School in nearby Lyon.
The avalanche was triggered on the Bellecombe ski run, a black run – the most difficult – which was closed at the time.
An investigation has been launched into why they were on the run, as 70 members of search and rescue teams, paramedics, ski patrollers and police search for the missing person.
Sniffer dogs and specialist tracking equipment is being used by the teams who are sweeping up the run in a line in a bid to find them, although the lack of light will make this more difficult.
The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, tweeted his “great sadness” at the news.
He said: “Great sadness after the avalanche this afternoon in Les Deux Alpes.”All our thoughts are with the victims and those fighting for their lives.
Les Deux Alpes is a popular ski resort with British tourists but bad snow conditions in the Alps means the snow has been unstable this winter.
Late snowfall followed by rain and topped up with snow has meant the avalanche warning has been pushed up to four out of five.