Eight mountaineers missing on Mont Blanc in French Alps after avalanche

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mont Blanc in the Alps, is the highest mountain in Western Europe.

Rescue crews have called an end to the search for eight mountaineers who went missing on the French side of Mont Blanc after an avalanche that occurred on at 0100 GMT August 24. Eight other climbers were also injured. Five of the missing are said to be Austrian and three were from Switzerland.

"[There is] no longer any chance of finding someone alive," stated the interior minister of France, Michele Alliot-Marie who also added that are more people trapped beneath the snow. "Thanks to technology, we know for certain there are people buried under the snow, but it's impossible to be sure exactly how many."

Rescuers feared that there would be more avalanches and decided to end the search for survivors in the late afternoon today. The avalanche started at an elevation of 3,600 meters and went down the mountainside for nearly 100 meters, leaving a trail 50 meters wide. Rescuers used helicopters and dogs to search for survivors for a day, but failed to find any.

"[I saw] a wall of ice coming towards us and then we were carried 200 metres," said one of the survivors from Italy, Marco Delfini who also said he tried to help the others caught in the snow.

There have been many accidents in the Alps this summer, about one hundred climbers have perished since June 1 in France, Italy and Switzerland altogether, of whom about twenty have died on Mont Blanc.


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