In Brief

Three dead as avalanche hits school trip

Investigation after two children and one adult die on closed piste in French Alps

Three people have been killed and three others seriously injured after an avalanche in the French Alps hit a group of schoolchildren on a skiing trip.

Two French pupils and a Ukrainian tourist died, while two more schoolchildren and their teacher remain in a critical condition.

The avalanche struck on a closed piste in the Les Deux Alpes area of Isere. Rescue teams have now accounted for everyone in the area.

A spokesman from the Isere prefect's office told France Info radio that the school group should "probably not" have been on the closed piste, but added that an investigation would have to take place into whether the correct warning signs were in place.

The piste had been closed since the beginning of the season due to a lack of snow over the holiday period, a manager at Les Deux Alpes told local media.

Heavy snowfall in recent days had increased the risk of avalanches, said the regional government.

Witnesses told France Bleu radio station the avalanche was likely to have been triggered due to groups skiing through the area.

French President Francois Hollande offered "sincere condolences" to the victims' families and said "the solidarity of the whole nation" was with them.

Daniel Stanford, an electrical contractor from the UK on holiday in the Alps, told The Guardian he just avoided the avalanche and was only alerted to what happened "when scores of people were heading to the mountain to help dig and offer help".

"The helicopter came and went up to five times while I was there, dropping supplies, stretchers and dogs to help locate victims. It was a very sombre time on the mountain and we all still can't believe what happened," he said.

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