Avalanche alert after mountain deaths

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The Independent Online

Climbers were warned of a high avalanche risk today after three people were killed on a mountain.

Two men from Northern Ireland and a man from Scotland died after they were caught up in the avalanche on Buchaille Etive Mhor, near Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands yesterday, sparking a major rescue operation.

Their ages have yet to be confirmed but next of kin have been informed.

The Sport Scotland website rated the risk of avalanches in Glencoe yesterday as "considerable" - category three, on a scale of one to five.

And the site forecasts the avalanche hazard at Glencoe today will be will be High (Category 4).

There will be snow showers and "accumulations of unstable soft slab will continue to develop in all sheltered locations".

The snowpack, especially on steeper slopes will be "unstable containing several layers of weakly bonded slab where avalanches will occur".

Northern Constabulary is advising climbers that there is a high risk of avalanches in the Highlands over the next couple of days.

Nine people from at least two separate parties were involved in Saturday's incident, Northern Constabulary said.

Two people were taken off the mountain by an RAF rescue helicopter which flew them to Fort William's Belford Hospital.

One was pronounced dead on arrival and the second died later.

The body of the third person was later discovered buried in the snow.

Another person with a shoulder injury was taken off the mountain and received treatment at Belford Hospital.

The five uninjured people were rescued from the mountain.

One man was at Belford Hospital today.

A helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth and a Royal Navy helicopter from HMS Gannet were called in to assist with the incident.

Emergency services worked with members of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team and used search dogs in blizzard conditions to locate those caught up in the avalanche.

One survivor later spoke about digging his injured friend out of the snow with his bare hands.

Jim Coyne, 50, Lindsayfield, East Kilbride, told the Sunday Mail he and David Barr, 53, of Paisley, were on the mountain when a slab of snow came away from the peak.

Mr Coyne said: "We were just below the summit when it happened. It was a massive avalanche, a huge slab of snow which just came away.

"We were engulfed and I managed to dig my way out.

"As I tried to get my bearings I saw an arm sticking out of the snow. It was Davie. I dug for 10 minutes using just my hands to get him free."

Buchaille Etive Mhor, which reaches 3,352ft in height, is known for its distinctive pyramidal shape.