School party swept away in French Alps avalanche, at least three dead

At least three people are dead in the French Alps after an avalanche swept away a group of people that included a party of schoolchildren, local officials reported Wednesday.

The dead include two children and a skier who was unattached to the school group, said officials from the local prefect. Three people were also seriously injured, reported police.

The avalanche struck a group of some 10 schoolchildren from Lyon, accompanied by a teacher, around 4 pm (1500 GMT) in the ski resort of Les Deux Alpes south-east of Grenoble, Le Dauphine Libere newspaper reported.

All the survivors from the school group have been found said Jean-Luc Villeminey of the local police, speaking on BFMTV.

"Every minute counts," said Villeminey, as he noted that search efforts continued to make sure that other people in the area at the time were all brought to safety.

The avalanche occurred on a piste that had been closed to skiers since the beginning of the season.

"It was by definition dangerous to embark on this piste," Villeminey said. "Even more so today because the avalanche risk had been raised."

About 80 rescue vehicles responded, the Interior Ministry said. They were supported by avalanche search dogs and four helicopters with infrared cameras.

French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed condolences. "All of our thoughts are with the victims and with those who are fighting for their lives," Valls said on Twitter.

Authorities said an investigation was under way, but noted that details remained unclear.

The teacher was seriously injured and has been flown to a hospital in Grenoble. The class was studying athletics and many of them were good skiers, according to radio broadcaster France Bleu. However, authorities said the avalanche risks in the area were high on Wednesday.

Last update: Wed, 13/01/2016 - 23:06

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