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Deadly avalanche kills five soldiers in French Alps

The soldiers were training off-piste in Valfrejus in the Savoie region
The soldiers were training off-piste in Valfrejus in the Savoie region

An avalanche in the French Alps swept away a military unit training in the backcountry, killing five soldiers and injuring several others Monday, officials said.

Lawmaker Julien Aubert confirmed the deaths to BFM television, saying the soldiers were training off-piste in Valfrejus in the Savoie region. He said the group was a mixture of veterans and new soldiers.

Jean-Claude Raffin, mayor of Modane, the nearest town, said the soldiers were out for an all-day backcountry skiing session when the avalanche hit. He said six people were injured, three of them seriously.

The group of about 50 men were skiing at an altitude of around 2,000 meters (6,500 feet).

Julien Noel, director of the ski area, said the location where the avalanche hit is well-known for backcountry skiing and normally is not known as particularly dangerous. He said the slopes were closed after the avalanche Monday, for safety.

The deadly avalanche comes just days after a school group also skiing off-piste in the Alps was swept away, killing three people, including two students.

The avalanche risk has been high in the region, where fresh snow has fallen in recent days.