Investigation Underway After Six Die in Avalanche Near Mont Blanc

Two of the dead are mountain guides. We have full and updated details of the incident, plus videos. PlanetSKI reports from Chamonix. UPDATED

The incident happened at the Armancette glacier near Mont Blanc at around midday on Easter Sunday.

Among the victims was a couple in their 20s, a 39-year-old woman and a man in his early 40s who was “probably” her partner and two mountain guides, said local prosecutor, Karline Bouisset.

The avalanche was caused by a slab of snow detaching from the top of the mountain and triggering the avalanche.

“Today, we are mourning, and there is great sadness among all of us mountaineers, friends of Les Contamines, those who died are people we knew, and all our thoughts go out to their families,” said an official of the nearby Contamines-Montjoie village, Jean-Luc Mattel, on Sunday.

One person was taken to Sallanches hospital, the others are said to be in shock.

Those caught up in it were backcountry skiing in the mountains, said Emmanuel Coquand, spokesperson for the local authorities of Haute-Savoie.

The identities of the victims have not been released.

The avalanche covered an area of 1km by 500m.

It happened at an altitude of 3,500m and triggered a huge search & rescue operation.

The nearby ski resort of Contamines-Montjoie posted a video on social media showing an avalanche from the Dômes de Miage, which the glacier is a part of.

Two helicopters were mobilised in the rescue operation along with avalanche dogs.

The high mountain gendarmerie, PGHM, was also on site along with  firefighters and civil security.

PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, is currently in Chamonix by Mont Blanc.

Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix. Image © PlanetSKI

James Cove, Mt Blanc, Chamonix. Image © PlanetSKI

“The has been a Level 2 alert for avalanches across the region which means the risk is judged as ‘moderate’.

“Sunday was particularly warm with temperatures at 18 degrees at 1,000m at 5pm.

“The snow has been heavy due to the warm weather.

“The holiday period has brought out many people with hikers and ski tourers heading up to enjoy the spring conditions.

“Here in Chamonix the news has swept round the resort and some are now questioning their planned routes if they are heading off piste.”

Chamonix, France. Image © PlanetSKI

Chamonix, France. Image © PlanetSKI

One eyewitness told France Television that she was hiking just in front of the Armancette glacier when she saw the avalanche happening and took out her phone to film it.

“I had put the phone in front of me but then I was looking with my eyes more than in the lens and suddenly there was a huge, huge, huge cloud that came down to the bottom, it split into two,” she said.

“I think of the families, I think of the people, of those who got out of it, who had the fright of their life, of those who are still there.”

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed their sympathy to the victims and their loved ones.

Macron commented on Twitter.

At the Armancette glacier in the Alps, an avalanche caused casualties. We are thinking of them and their families. To find people still stuck in the snow, our rescue forces are mobilized. Our thoughts accompany them, too.

An investigation is underway and will likely focus on the sharp rise in tempertures that James Cove has experienced in the region and commented on.

The prefect of Haute-Savoie said that since the start of the Easter weekend the department has experienced “a strong and rapid rise in temperatures”.

The prefect added that “the investigation will say what the exact causes are of this avalanche”.

Here on PlanetSKI we will bring you more news as we receive it.

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