French Minister to Visit Fatal Avalanche Sight

By Monica Sowa,
International News Writer

In light of the recent tragedies in the nation’s capital, France is hit once again with misfortune. In less than a week, there have been two separate occasions of fatal accidents in the French Alps, and many were injured as a result of avalanches that have occurred in the area.

Most recently, on Monday, January 18, 50 French Foreign Legionnaires were caught in an avalanche in which five men died. One more is still being treated in intensive care for hypothermia.

The French Foreign Legionaries is a military branch of the French Army established to allow non-French nationals to serve in the French armed forces. It offers a new start, and those injured or those who have served five years can apply for French citizenship.

According to BBC, the French Foreign Legionaries were taking part in an “off-piste” skiing exercise when they were caught in the avalanche. The soldiers were well equipped, specialized in mountain warfare, and were qualified in military skiing.

Although the avalanche risk was established as a 3 out of 5, which is considerably dangerous, the weather was such that it did not require them to stop any activity.

The avalanche is thought to have been caused by a wind slab, which is a patch of snow formed by wind and therefore easily detached from the layer of snow beneath it.

The conditions on the Alps have become dangerous as a result of heavy snow fall and a warmer than average autumn. The fresh snow has not been sticking together or to the snow below it, therefore causing these most recent avalanches, which have proven to be quite deadly.

The French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, arrived in Valfrejus, the location of the avalanche, to determine whether or not the military took on unnecessary risk and to determine whether or not correct precautions were taken in light of the apparent risks.  According to Yahoo News, he also visited the morgue to pay his respects to the deceased and visited the injured in the hospital.

The President of France, Francois Hollande, has also expressed “the nation’s solidarity” over the deaths.

This is the second time the French Foreign Legionnaires have experienced such a tragedy, having lost five of its members to an avalanche in 2012.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 26th print edition.

Contact Monica at
monica.sowa@student.shu.edu

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