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Dutch prince fights for life after being buried in avalanche

Prince Johan Friso, a prominent member of the Dutch royal family, was in a critical condition last night after being struck and buried by an avalanche while out skiing in the Austrian Alps.

Officials in the resort town of Lech in western Austria said the 43-year-old prince, pictured, had been skiing alone and off-piste in the region's Arlberg mountains when he was engulfed. They said he appeared to have ignored avalanche warnings. Rescue teams arrived within minutes and used echo-sounding devices to locate the prince who was buried under thick snow. They said he had been buried for about 15 minutes and had to be resuscitated on the spot. The prince was then flown by helicopter to an intensive care unit at a hospital in Innsbruck. Doctors said that although he was stable, his condition remained "life-threatening".

Reports said the prince was hit by the avalanche which started after a large expanse of snow detached itself from the side of the mountain.

Prince Friso is Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands' second son. He renounced his rights to the throne in 2004 after marrying Mabel Wisse Smit, a human rights activist. The Dutch Government refused to support the marriage because the couple had given misleading information about the bride's relationship with a dead gangster.