SAVOIE , France, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Five French soldiers died Monday afternoon in an avalanche during training exercises in the Alpsnear the Italian border.
They were among about 50 soldiers participating in off-piste maneuvers, away from prepared skiing tracks, near the Valfrejus ski resort in the French Alps town of Savoie when the avalanche struck. Five others were airlifted to Grenoble and hospitalized with serious injuries, and some suffered hypothermia.
The unit, the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment stationed at Saint-Christol and training at the country's national center for mountain warfare in Modane, was skiing on the mountain Petit Argentier, at about 7,200 feet above sea level.
The rescue operation involved helicopters, rescue dogs and specialist mountain police. The soldiers carried avalanche detection systems and aid arrived quickly, reports said. The resort has been closed to simplify the rescue effort.
Three people, two teenagers and an adult, died last week in an avalanche at the Les Deux Alpes resort, 80 miles away from Monday's incident. A teacher is under investigation for manslaughter, suspected of leading his students on a closed ski run prior to the avalanche.