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On 18 January 2016, six French Foreign Legionnaires were killed in an avalanche in the Massif des Cerces, France.[1][2]

2016 Valfréjus avalanche
Valfréjus avalanche is located in France
Valfréjus avalanche
Valfréjus avalanche
Location within France
DateJanuary 18, 2016 (2016-01-18)
Time13:50 (12:50GMT)
LocationFrance Massif des Cerces, Alps
CauseUnstable snow formations
Participants51
Casualties
6 dead, 5 injured

Contents

BackgroundEdit

The combination of heavy winter snowfall and strong winds in the Alps led to unstable snow formations in the high peaks. The avalanche warning was raised to 3 out of 5 (Considerable) beforehand.[3]

An avalanche bulletin for the mountain sector warned that a single skier could trigger a surface slide that could then take several layers in the snow pack down to 2 meters deep.[4]

AvalancheEdit

On 18 January, a division of 51 Legionnaires,[1][2] assigned to the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment (2nd REG) took part in an off-piste ski mountain exercise, to receive their Skier Certificate (BSM).

Deaths by citizenship
Citizenship Deaths
  France 001[5]*
  Madagascar 001[5]*
  Italy 001[5]
    Nepal 001[5]
  Moldova 001[5]
  Albania 001[5]
  Hungary 001[6]
Total 00 6

The (2nd REG) provides combat engineering services to the French Army's 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade, who were also present during the military exercise.[7][8] The course took place 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Albertville and near the Valfréjus ski resort, in the Massif des Cerces.[8][9]

The company was at a height of 2,600m (8,500 ft) when the avalanche struck at 13:50, while 5-6 of the skiers neared Col de Le Petit Argentier. A large slab of ice, about 100 meters wide, broke off a ridge causing a mass avalanche. Several branches of snow about 400 meters wide, engulfed 13 of the skiers in a steep sector of the valley.[2][5][10] In all, 18 of the skiers downstream were either buried or shaken. The rest of the company remained at the foot of the slope, near the Pas du Roc peak.[11]

Rescue teams arrived within minutes.[9] The 13 skiers were recovered and found buried under a meter of snow by rescuers with the help of search dogs and avalanche victim detection kits (DVA)'s they were equipped with.[8][12]

AftermathEdit

French military and state prosecutors are investigating the case and assessing whether the unit took unnecessary risks.[4][8][5] According to French media, the unit was due to be sent on a military operation. Around one-third of the company was projected to be deployed to the Sahel in the coming months in coordination with Operation Barkhane.[3][11]

French president François Hollande expressed "the nation’s solidarity" over the deaths and wished the injured a speedy recovery. He asked Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to head to the scene of the accident.[1][4]

FatalitiesEdit

The nationalities of the 6 Legionnaires killed, a mix of veterans and new recruits,[13] was released the following day. A Malagasy (dual French citizenship), Italian, Nepalese, Moldovan, Albanian, and Hungarian, aged between 21 and 33 were killed.[5][6]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c "France minister to visit deadly avalanche site". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  2. ^ a b c "Avalanche kills 6 French Foreign Legion soldiers". The Times of India. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  3. ^ a b Willsher, Kim (2016-01-18). "French Alps avalanche kills five soldiers". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  4. ^ a b c "France 24 - Avalanche kills five soldiers during training in French Alps". France 24. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "France to probe risks taken by soldiers in deadly avalanche". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  6. ^ a b "Sixth soldier dies after avalanche in French Alps". France 24. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  7. ^ southasia.com.au. "One of the five French Foreign Legion soldiers killed in Alps avalanche was Nepalese". southasia.com.au. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  8. ^ a b c d lefigaro.fr. "Alpes : des militaires emportés par une avalanche". Le Figaro. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  9. ^ a b "A second deadly avalanche in French Alps kills five soldiers". euronews. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  10. ^ "Avalanche de Valfréjus : quelles responsabilités pour l'armée ?". Libération.fr. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
  11. ^ a b "Quelles suites à l'avalanche de Valfréjus et ses 6 morts ? - Sommets.info". Sommets.info (in French). Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  12. ^ "Five French Foreign Legionnaires killed in Alps avalanche". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  13. ^ "Avalanche kills 5 French Foreign Legion soldiers". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2016-01-19.