Disaster Response

Four snowboarders killed in avalanche near French Alps ski resort

In this image taken from video, rescue personnel work at the site of the avalanche.

In this image taken from video, rescue personnel work at the site of the avalanche.  (AP Photo)

A massive avalanche killed four snowboarders near a popular resort in the French Alps on Monday, rescuers confirmed, saying the search continued but they did not expect any additional deaths.

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The rush of snow near the Tignes resort measured nearly 1,300 feet long and 330 feet wide. A separate group of skiers reportedly triggered the avalanche Monday morning, according to Sky News

Initial reports sowed confusion that more skiers had been caught in the disaster, but officials said the victims had been entered into the skiing database twice by accident.

"We lament the four deceased victims and we think there will be only four ... The search continues. It was an avalanche of a huge scale," Albertville Deputy Prefect Nicolas Martrenchard said.

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Officials said the four people who died were a 49-year-old instructor, a 48-year-old father, his 15-year-old son and a 19-year-old half-brother -- all believed to be French. They were not immediately named.

They had been walking -- snowboards in hand -- with a guide near the main Tignes slopes when the avalanche hit, Martrenchard said, adding that they were equipped with locator devices.

Two of those who died were initially pulled out alive, Sky News added.

The resort area, not far from the Italian border, was world-renowned for its extensive slopes and dramatic views. Tignes recently claimed it attracted nearly 500,000 vacationers each year.

About 40 people were working on the rescue, which involved helicopters, ski instructors and sniffer dogs. The skiers were hit at an altitude of roughly 6,900 feet.

Three other people have died in skiing incidents in the Alps and Pyrenees this winter, according to the news agency. At least 21 deaths were reported in the same area last winter.

The avalanche risk in the area Monday was evaluated at three on a five-point scale. Other slopes at the resort were still open on Monday, the first day of the British winter school holidays.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.