Five people were missing and 20 were pulled out alive, shocked or slightly injured, after the two enormous snow slides engulfed part of the villages of Le Tour and Montroc-le-Planet, both popular resorts.
Two Britons among the rescued were later discharged from hospital. Police said they feared that others might be trapped inside chalets or under snow. Witnesses said that they had seen several people walking in the open near the chalets just before the avalanches struck.
The victims were described as two men, a woman and a girl of about three or four. Their names were not being released.
More than 200 rescue workers assembled last night, some skiing to the scene after roads were cut off.
"We think there could be others inside the chalets or near the chalets who could be buried," said Michel Berg, secretary-general of the Haute Savoie police. The rescue teams were ready to work throughout the night and powerful lights were being helicoptered to the scene. Local radio reported that the villages were buried under six feet of snow, with only the roofs of the chalets visible. Tens of thousands of people were expected in the area from this weekend with the start of the school holidays.
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