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NZ avalanche: Skiers rescued

Treble Cone is a training ground by European and U.S. World Cup teams. File photo.
New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Three people trapped after a powerful avalanche swept across the slopes of the Treble Cone ski-field in New Zealand's South Island have been rescued.

The avalanche -- which officials said measured 150 by 800 meters (490 by 2624 feet) -- crossed across Wanaka's main ski field Friday morning.

The slip was triggered off by staff trying to clear an avalanche danger elsewhere on the mountain, the general manager of the resort, Jackie van der Voort, told local media.

Rescuers dug out the three uninjured skiers after around 100 searchers with dogs probed the snow.

Earlier police said they did not know how many people had been trapped in the slide after witnesses saw several skiers get caught up.

Up to 2,000 skiers were on the slopes when the avalanche hit, the New Zealand Herald reported on its Web site.

But police later said all the other people at the ski resort had been accounted for.

"Safety experts on site are confident everything possible has been done to locate a buried person, including dog searching, probing all possible burial locations for over three hours," a police spokesman told Reuters news agency.

Skiers had earlier been urged to stay away from snow in the South Island's high country amid warnings of extreme avalanche danger.

An urgent avalanche warning was issued for slopes from Queenstown to Arthur's Pass along the Southern Alps.

Treble Cone is the largest ski area in the South Island and is in the Matukituki Valley, 28 kilometers (17 miles) west of Wanaka.

It is used as a training ground by European and United States World Cup national teams.

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