8 believed dead in French avalanche

MOUNT BLANC, France, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- French officials say they have given up hope of finding eight missing Alpine climbers buried in an avalanche.

Search efforts near Mount Blanc were broken off amid fears that rescue teams could be hit by a second avalanche, The Times of London reported Monday. Eight people had already been rescued from the first avalanche hitting a group of Swiss and Austrian climbers early Sunday.


"There is no longer any chance of finding anyone alive," said Michele Alliot-Marie, France's interior minister, who traveled to the mountains near the Italian border.

Authorities say 80 percent of those dug out from avalanches within 20 minutes survive. But after just two hours the survival rate falls to about 10 percent.

More than 100 deaths have been reported among Alpine climbers and walkers in France, Italy and Switzerland this summer. Cold spells followed by warm days have made snow unstable, say French officials.

But Yan Giezendanner, a forecaster with Meteo France, said weather played little part in this latest incident.

"It was just that the ice was too heavy," he said, calling the avalanche unpredictable.


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