An avalanche in the French Alps killed five French soldiers and injured six more Monday during a training exercise, the Independent reported. French officials confirmed the deaths and said the military unit, which is based in Southern France, was training near the town of Valfrejus in the Savoie region.
The 50-member unit, which included both new recruits and veterans, was involved in an all-day ski session when the avalanche descended down the mountain. The soldiers were in the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment and had been at an altitude of 6,500 feet when the incident occurred. Julien Aubert, a lawmaker from the unit's hometown, told BFM Television they specialized in harsh conditions.
It is unclear if the bodies have been recovered. According to the local ski director, the slopes were closed Monday after the incident.
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French President François Hollande offered his condolences and said the victims' families had the “solidarity of the nation,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will travel to the scene.
Before the Monday incident, it was reported that avalanches in France had killed seven people and injured seven others so far in 2016, according to Anena, a French avalanche research organization.
The area was at high risk for snowslides, according to the Associated Press. In the last few days, the slopes near the Italian border had seen several inches of snowfall. Just five days ago three people, including two students, were killed in the Alps by an avalanche. A schoolteacher who accompanied the students onto what was a closed ski slope was charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to CNN.