At least five French soldiers have been killed in an avalanche in the Alps, local media reported. The officers were swept to their deaths as they were taking part in military exercises in an off-piste area near Valfréjus, in Savoie, police told Le Parisien newspaper.

Some 52 soldiers with the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment were off the summit of the Petit Argentier Mountain, at about 2,200m altitude when the snow slip struck. Three rescue helicopters have been sent to the scene to evacuate the victims. Several have been injured with at least two reportedly suffering from hypothermia. It was not immediately clear if there are any more soliders missing.

The incident comes just days after another avalanche killed three people, a 16-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy and a Ukrainian man, at the alpine resort of Les Deux Alpes, in Bellecombe, Isère, south-east France.