Four killed in avalanche in the French Alps

A photo taken on February 5, 2016 shows a flag indicating avalanche risk on Mont Blanc in Chamonix. (PHOTO / AFP)

PARIS – Four people have died and nine others have been injured in an avalanche southwest of Mont Blanc in the French Alps, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Sunday.

The avalanche occurred in the middle of the day on the Armancette glacier, he wrote on Twitter.

Those caught up in it were backcountry skiing in the mountains, said Emmanuel Coquand, spokesperson for the local authorities of Haute-Savoie, adding that they were still confirming the identity of the victims.

He said the avalanche was extensive, covering an area of one km by 500 meters (half a mile by 550 yards) at an altitude of 3,500 meters and that its causes are being investigated.

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The glacier lies near the village and ski resort of Les Contamines-Montjoie.

President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter that rescue services were continuing to search for further casualties and that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.