Three people are killed as avalanche hits popular Swiss ski resort

  • ‘Hurricane force’ winds were reported Monday around the popular Alpine town
  • A family were found dead in the area in March after getting caught in storm 

Three people were killed in a huge avalanche in Switzerland on Easter Monday, police have confirmed.

Three bodies were found after going missing in Lawinen near Zermatt, home to a popular ski resort in the southern canton of Valais, on Easter Monday.

A fourth person was found with injuries and flown to a nearby hospital after a dramatic hunt involving four helicopters.

Some 45 rescuers took part in searches, including eight avalanche dog handlers, 13 rescue specialists, 15 firefighters and local ski instructors.

Police did not confirm the identities of the victims.

Valais, in Switzerland, attracts tourists from all over during its busy ski season.

File photo shows the Tete Blanche mountain near the Swiss-Italian border and Zermatt

General view of the popular resort at Zermatt in southern Switzerland

General view of the popular resort at Zermatt in southern Switzerland 

The skiers were reportedly in an area prone to deep snow outside of the marked ski slopes around 2pm when the avalanche struck.

‘It looked to me as if there were several people on the slope at the time of the avalanche,’ a horrified witness told local outlet Blick.

Bruno Jelk, former head of the Zermatt mountain rescue service and current head of Mattertal avalanche monitoring, said several had come off piste on a ‘very steep slope’ where tracks could still be seen.

The ski area was some 8200ft (2500m) above sea level and experiences intermittent avalanche warnings.

A lot of snow had fallen over the Easter weekend as the mountains were buffeted by strong ‘hurricane force’ winds, local media reported.

Police said it was initially unclear exactly how many people had been caught in the avalanche.

At around 4:30pm yesterday, a media spokesperson said there were ‘probably at least three people’ caught in the accident.

By the evening, rescue teams confirmed they had stopped their search.

All four were taken to hospital. 

On Monday, as the family were found, the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos declared the second highest danger level for parts of the region, including Zermatt.

A family of skiers were found dead in the Swiss Alps in March after leaving Zermatt for the nearby town of Arolla.

The group of six became trapped raised the alarm when they became engulfed in a fierce storm – which prevented helicopters and rescue teams from reaching them.

Five of the six alpine enthusiasts were later found to have died close to the Dent Blanche alpine cabin.