PARIS: An avalanche in the French Alps swept away a military unit training in the back country, killing five soldiers from the French Foreign Legion and injuring several others Monday, officials said.
The Savoie prefecture confirmed the deaths, and said 11 people out of a group of about 50 were struck by the avalanche. It said the soldiers were training off-piste in Valfrejus in the Savoie region.
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. The prefecture said six people were injured, two of them seriously.
The unit from the southeast of France was skiing at an altitude of around 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) when the avalanche struck around 2 p.m. Julien Aubert, a lawmaker from the Vaucluse region where the unit is based, told BFM television the unit was a mixture of veterans and new soldiers specialized in harsh conditions.