Three skiers are reported to have been killed, two more are missing and two were injured in an avalanche at Val Vény, near Courmayeur in the Mont Blanc region of the Italian Alps. Officials say those affected by the avalanche, which struck at about midday on Thursday (2nd March) came from Italy, Sweden, Belgium and Germany.

The victims are reported to have been in an off-piste area making their way through a fresh fall of snow when the avalanche struck. The two injured skiers were hit by large rocks and have been taken to hospital in Aosta by helicopter, the BBC reported. Skiers went to the scene and dug into the deep snow to try and find those missing.

The avalanche risk in the region had been judged at three out of five on Thursday morning before the avalanche struck. This was due to a number of factors including fresh snow and high winds which caused drifting. A second avalanche struck the same area on Thursday afternoon, but two off-piste skiers who were caught up in it were not injured. Courmayeur is known for its difficult skiing.

There have been a number of avalanches in the Alps over the winter, including one at the French resort of Tignes on 14th February 2017. Four snowboarders were killed including a father and his two sons. On 16th February six climbers died in two separate incidents in the Italian and French Alps when ice walls collapsed due to unseasonably warm weather.

Twenty-nine people died when a huge avalanche buried Hotel Rigopiano in central Italy on 18th January 2017.

Mont Blanc (Reuters)
At least 3 skiers died in an avalanche in the Mont Blanc area of the Italian Alps