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5 soldiers die in Alps avalanche

The area of the Petit Argentier pass where five French Foreign Legionnaires were killed in an avalanche. JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP

France's defence minister is on his way to the Alps this morning to the the site of the second deadly avalanche within a week. This, as as a top expert warned that an unusually mild autumn was causing the snowslides.



Five French Foreign Legionnaires have been killed during a training exercise in the French Alps.

The accident marks the the second mountain tragedy in France in less than a week. Another six soldiers were injured near the resort of Valfrejus.

The Legionnaires were among a group of about 50 soldiers taking part in the skiing exercise.

Three helicopters were involved in the search, as well as five police dogs and three doctors.

The nationalities of the victims were not immediately known. The French Foreign Legion attracts recruits from around the world.

French President Francois Hollande expressed "the nation's solidarity" over the deaths and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

The regiment to which the soldiers were attached is specialised in mountain warfare and all the members have military skiing qualifications

They were in the mountains in preparation for their departure on an operation.

The unit experienced a similar tragedy in 2012 in the Alps when an avalanche swept away five of its members, leaving one dead.

Monday's accident came days after two French teenage students and a Ukrainian tourist were killed in an avalanche in the French Alps last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a weather expert explained that one of the reasons behind recent avalanches is the warm weather experienced in France at the beginning of the winter.

"Snow fell at the end of November onto warm ground then began to change," said Dominique Letang, director of the National Agency for the Study of Snow and Avalanches (ANENA).

"The base level of the snow is not sticking together. It's something that is neither sticking to the ground nor the snow that is falling on top of it," added Letang.

The avalanche took place at 1:50 pm (1250 GMT) at an altitude of between 2,350 and 2,600 metres (7,700-8,500 feet).

The deadliest avalanche in France's history occurred in 1970 when 39 people were killed when their chalet was hit by an avalanche at the Val d'Isere ski resort.