7 dead in French Alps disasters on Bastille Day

LYON (AFP) – Seven people, including two paragliders, died in a series of accidents in the French Alps as the country celebrated its Bastille Day holiday, rescue services said Wednesday (July 15).

The bodies of a 40-year-old Dutch man and a 30-year-old French woman were found on Tuesday afternoon near the Chapelle de la Gliere, a rocky ridge in the Chamonix valley, not far from the Mont Blanc.

A view of the town and ski resort of Chamonix in the French Alps on Feb 13, 2020.
A view of the town and ski resort of Chamonix in the French Alps on Feb 13, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

The climbers plunged from the rocky face of the popular mountaineering route, though the cause of the accident was not immediately clear, authorities said.

Also on Tuesday, a 71-year-old hiker was killed after falling near the summit of the Mont de Grange, in the French Alps near the Swiss border.

Rescue services said the bodies of two Italian climbers were spotted by helicopter on Wednesday at the foot of the Mont Maudit, one of several peaks that emerge from the Mont Blanc chain, which forms the border with Italy.

The experienced climbers, aged 66 and 67, had travelled from Genoa to scale the summit from its Italian side, and were descending on the French side when the accident occurred.

“It was quite cloudy along the chain. They fell on the north face for an unknown reason and dropped at least 300 metres,” Lieutenant-Colonel Stephane Bozon, head of the Chamonix mountain police, told AFP.

On Tuesday evening, two 48-year-old men were killed when their paraglider crashed while flying over the village of La Chapelle-d’Abondance, just south of Lake Geneva.

The two victims, a guide and his client, plunged when the wings of the paraglider suddenly collapsed, causing it to plunge onto the roof of a house.

Waves of climbers and tourists head to the picturesque peaks of the French Alps each summer, prompting warnings from officials that the challenging routes should not be underestimated.

Last week, authorities reported the first death of the season on the Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, which attracts nearly 25,000 climbers every year.

The 65-year-old man was making his descent when he unhooked himself from his partner’s rope thinking the terrain was less risky, but slipped on a patch of snow and fell 500 metres, rescue services said.

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