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Two Avalanches in French Alps Kill Seven

FILE - An undated picture shows the site of an avalanche that killed five near the resort of Valfrejus in the French Alps, Jan. 18, 2016. Seven people died May 8, 2021, in two avalanches in the French Alps,

Seven people died Saturday in two avalanches in the French Alps, according to authorities who had warned Friday of the instability of the snowpack because of warmer temperatures.

The first fatal slide was triggered late in the morning in the town of Valloire in the sector of the Col du Galibier at 2,642 meters above sea level. Four people, aged 42 to 76 and from the surroundings of Grenoble, were killed.

Two groups of hikers, composed of three and two people, were swept away and only one of them survived, found in good health by the emergency services.

Six soldiers from the High Mountain Gendarmerie Platoon (PGHM), two helicopters and two avalanche dogs had been hired to search for the victims.

The second avalanche occurred around 2 p.m. in the Mont Pourri sector, which rises to 3,779 meters in the Vanoise massif, on the other side of the department. Three people died, according to the prefecture.

The authorities had warned Friday that the risk of avalanches was "particularly high" this weekend, as temperatures have softened after heavy snowfall on the mountains in recent days.

"With weather like today's, it's tempting to go out in the mountains, but it's also extremely tricky," Valloire Mayor Jean-Pierre Rougeaux told AFP by phone.

Five people had already died Monday in two avalanches in Isère and in the Hautes-Alpes.

Since the start of the 2020-21 season, before the avalanches on Saturday, 28 people had already died in similar conditions, according to the National Association for the Study of Snow and Avalanches (Anena), which publishes each year of accident statistics.