At least three people were killed on Wednesday when a huge avalanche hit the Alpine Ecrins National Park in south eastern France. Another person was left in a critical condition.
Austria's Alpine Club (ÖAV) said that a man from South Tyrol in Italy and two Austrians had died, while a third Austrian was reported to be in a "critical condition in hospital".
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The ÖAV said that the victims had been skiing with a group of 11 people from Austria and Germany. The Local France reported that as many as ten people were swept away when the avalanche struck just after 3.00pm.
Specialist mountain rescue teams were dispatched to the scene along with sniffer dogs. The ÖAV said that they were able to rescue six Austrians and a German.
A local official, Pierre Besnard, described the victims as "young people". Their bodies have been taken to a chapel in Vallouise.
Witnesses quoted by France 3 Alpes said the avalanche was "spectacular" and occurred above the town of Villar d'Arène.
The avalanche risk in the area was between two and three at the time on a scale that reaches as high as five, reported the La Provence newspaper.
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