The most deadly avalanche in the Alps since 2008 has killed nine climbers and injured several others.
They were swept away early on Thursday morning by the snow which fell down a popular French mountain route near the Swiss border.
Rescuers have been searching for four people still missing.
Three Britons are among the dead. The other victims are three Germans, two Spaniards and one Swiss.
Thirty-eight climbers from several countries were attempting to scale Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak.
The avalanche struck at 4,000 metres on Mont Maudit, which means ‘Cursed Mountain’.
“There were no particular signs of bad weather. This is one of the most common access routes to Mont Blanc. If 38 people had left the refuge that’s completely normal,” said the mayor of the nearby French town of Chamonix, Eric Fournier.
“It (an avalanche) can be triggered anytime in any weather, there’s nothing so far to help us understand why a block of ice broke off at that moment,” mountain guide Jean-Louis Verdier told the same news conference.
First inquiries suggest a climber may have stepped on an icy patch, triggering the slide.
The French interior minister Manuel Valls has visited the area.
Rescue workers in helicopters and on foot, using teams with dogs, have searched all day for the missing. They are believed to be two Britons and two Spaniards.
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