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Avalanche swamps students in French Alps; 3 dead, 1 missing

Scores of rescuers converged on the site of Wednesday's avalanche in the French Alps.

Story highlights

  • All of the 19 students and 3 supervisors in one group are now accounted for
  • The search continues for possible other victims, Interior Ministry says
  • There was a high risk of an avalanche along the closed slope where the avalanche occurred

(CNN)Scores of rescuers worked into the night Wednesday looking for victims of an avalanche in the French Alps that killed two teenagers and a Ukrainian skier after engulfing them on a closed slope, officials said.

Ten students from the St.-Exupery school in Lyon, accompanied by their teacher, as well as the Ukrainian skier, were in the Les Deux Alpes ski resort when the avalanche occurred late Wednesday afternoon, the regional Isère government said in a statement.
    Two students and the Ukrainian died in its aftermath, the statement said, while the students' teacher was taken to CHU hospital in Grenoble.
    The French Interior Ministry said that all of the other children from the high school group had been found. It said that officials are still searching for other possible victims.
    Some 80 people were part of the rescue effort, including military personnel, police and dog search-and-rescue teams, according to the Interior Minister. There were helicopters -- some to ferry out the dead and injured, and others to aid in the search effort, including one equipped with a thermal camera, officials said.

    High avalanche risk

    Gilles Strappazzon, an official in the regional Isère government, told CNN affiliate BFMTV that at least one of the victims was a 14-year-old student.
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    The very steep slope -- about 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level -- where the avalanche occurred had been closed for the day, Strappazzon told BFMTV.
    That area had a Level 3 out of a five-level avalanche risk, meaning there was an above-average risk of ruptures at high altitudes. Les Deux Alpes reported 33 centimeters (13 inches) of fresh snow on Wednesday alone, a significant amount following a relatively dry and mild December.
    All of the others in the St.-Exupery school group -- which had 19 students and three supervisors -- were "safe ... and will be taken back to their school on a bus," the Interior Ministry said.