One of the people rescued from an avalanche at the Swiss ski resort of Crans-Montana died in the hospital overnight. Three other people were injured by the huge avalanche that struck on Tuesday. Rescuers suspended a coordinated search on Wednesday morning.
The man who died was a 34-year-old French national who worked at a ski resort in France, police said.
Rescuers worked all night above the resort in canton Valais to try to find skiers who might have been trapped in the avalanche. Witnesses had told police that there could be more people under the snow.
On Tuesday, a huge avalanche swept down the mountain at an altitude of 2,500 metres, just below the Plaine-Morte Glacier, and hit the popular Kandahar ski slope at 2.20pm at a spot known as “Passage du Major”.
This video by Swiss public radio, RTS, shows the extent of the avalanche. The police said it measured over 840 metres long and 100 metres wide and spread over the slope for about 400 metres.
This first part of this video has been filmed by one of the skiers on the piste when the avalanche produced.
SLF’s Swiss Long-Term Statistics of Avalanche Victims. The SLF, (Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research) has been collecting data on all the avalanche accidents that happened in Switzerland since the winter 1936/37. This is an overview of their statistics:
Avalanche victims since 1936
The annual average number of fatalities over the entire period is 25 (Fig. 1).
Spatial distribution of fatal accidents during the last twenty years
More than 90% of the fatal avalanche accidents during the last twenty years occurred in uncontrolled terrain, like for example during off-piste skiing and snowboarding or during backcountry touring on ski or snowshoes. As can be seen in Figure 2, a particularly large number of accidents occurred in the cantons of Valais and Grisons.
But what is the reason of this clustering?
Is the clustering of accidents a consequence of a high touring frequency in these regions, or are there other reasons for a higher avalanche accident risk in these regions?
Three accidents happened during the weekend break, claiming several victims in the mountains of Switzerland, killing 9 victims. News from 20 minutes – In the Pigne d’Arolla region in the canton of Valais, 14 ski tour riders went into a storm and had to spend the night outdoors. Four of them did not survive the hardships. On Monday and Tuesday, two more victims died in the hospital, as the Valais canton police announced on Tuesday.
The 14 ski tourers all started on Sunday from the “Cabane des Dix” at 2928 meters above sea level. They were traveling in two different groups: a group of four and a group of ten people, one of whom was a mountain guide. Both groups wanted to reach the “Vignettes” hut at 3157 meters via the classic route “la Serpentine”.
This past Sunday, three Spanish skiers have died, overtaken by an avalanche and two others where found alive in Fiescheralp, communicated the Swiss Police. This winter and spring were one of the most mortal ones due to avalanches.
As per the press release from the Police Office of the Valais canton, of a group of five skiers, three people have died and other two have been found alive. “The first investigations point to the victims being from Spanish origin. The formal identification of the deceased is being taking place”, says the release.
The five people were part of a group that on Saturday started a ski touring trip in direction of the Fiescheralp station, in the Valais canton, near the Aletsch glacier. When they were at 2,450 meters of altitude, around 16.45 hours (14.45 GMT), an avalanche trapped the five skiers.
News from Swissinfo.ch – Two people fell to their deaths in the Swiss Alps in separate incidents at the weekend. The victims were a 55-year-old Austrian ski tourer and a snowboarder from Germany, aged 19.
On Saturday, the ski tourer fell from the 3,698 metre high Balmhorn mountain on the border between cantons Bern and Valais, near to the popular resort of Leukerbad. The accident occurred when a snowdrift came loose, sweeping the man over the edge of the mountain.
Three companions who were also on the climb escaped unscathed from the accident.
In one report from Swissinfo.ch – a 40-year old hiker and a 57-year-old cross-country skier lost their lives in two separate avalanches in the Swiss Alps in recent days.
The hiker was a in a group of four that were swept away by an avalanche on Saturday near a steep gorge at 3,600m above the village of Arolla, which is popular starting point for hiking and ski tours. Rescue services managed to reach them and they were transported to hospitals in Martigny and Sion. However, the 40-year old woman from Valais died on Saturday night in the hospital. The other three hikers are recovering but are not in danger of losing their lives.
Swissinfo.ch has reported about three different avalanches deaths in the Swiss Alps during the Christmas period:
“A man who was skiing close to the 2,844-metre Hofathorn, in canton Valais, died after being carried away by an avalanche on Monday morning.
The 39-year-old from the Valais region was quickly found and recovered by his friends but was confirmed dead at the scene by emergency services.
Police in Graubünden, in eastern Switzerland, said a tourist who went missing on Saturday had also been found dead.
The 31-year-old Frenchman had tried to climb the Glattwang mountain alone on Saturday afternoon after skiing with his girlfriend.
When he did not return, a search was launched and the man’s body was found in a ravine on Sunday morning. Police said he had triggered an avalanche on his descent which carried him more than a kilometre over rocky terrain.
Snow drift death
Separately, one of three walkers buried by a snow drift in Valais on Saturday had died, reported Swiss public radio, SRF, quoting the police.
The group was hiking at 2,700 metres in the St Luc region when the accident happened. One of them managed to get free and make an emergency call which allowed the others to be rescued.
All three were flown to hospital, where one, a 29-year-old woman from canton Vaud, died of her injuries on Sunday evening, SRF said.”
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