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Hopes fade for missing climbers after avalanche

 Hopes fade for missing climbers after avalanche
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A French government minister has said there is no hope of finding any more survivors after a major avalanche hit the French Alps.

Seven people were injured and at least eight are still missing after a wave of snow crashed into a party of climbers tackling one of the peaks in the Mont Blanc range early on Sunday. Among the missing are five Austrians and three Swiss nationals.

A massive search involving helicopters and sniffer dogs has been called off due to fear of fresh slides.

The French Interior Minister, visiting the injured survivors, reportedly said there was no longer any chance of finding any more alive.

“The weather conditions are excellent,” Michele Alliot-Marie said. “The guides are experienced people, among the best around. There was no negligence involved. It is just that the mountain is an extremely dangerous environment even for those who know it well.”

Survivor Nicholas Duquesne knows he is very lucky to be alive. “We slid for 500 metres with the snow, before they found us,” he said.

Of the climbers airlifted to hospital in Chamonix, only three will stay overnight. But added to the eight climbers believed to be missing, French officials say there may be even more left buried under the snow.