In Swiss Alps, Major Search Continues for 6 Missing Ski Hikers

Geneva — The “major rescue operation” aimed at finding six Swiss ski hikers wanted since Saturday in the Swiss Alps must continue overnight, but the danger of avalanches is complicating operations, police said Sunday. 

The six people are aged 21 to 58 and five of them are members of the same family.  

They are “actively sought on the Zermatt-Arolla hiking route,” which is in the canton of Valais (southwest), the police said in a news release. 

The group left Zermatt on Saturday with the aim of reaching Arolla the same day.  

Saturday around 4 p.m. (3 p.m. GMT), a member of the family who came to pick up the group in Arolla contacted the cantonal police and the cantonal Valais emergency organization (OCVS), worried about not seeing their loved ones arrive. 

A little over an hour later, the hikers were located in the Col de Tete Blanche area, at approximately 3,500 meters above sea level, because a member of the group managed to contact emergency services. 

As soon as the alert was received, all emergency resources were mobilized on both sides of the route and numerous technical resources were deployed to find the hikers, the police said. 

But the weather conditions, which were very bad over the weekend, made the emergency response very difficult. 

The storm which raged in the south of the Swiss Alps as well as the danger of avalanches prevented helicopters and rescue columns from being able to approach the area. 

An attempt to approach by land from Zermatt was undertaken during the night from Saturday to Sunday by “5 experienced rescuers” from the OCVS but they had to give up more than 3,000 meters of altitude due to the very bad weather conditions and the risks involved. 

All day Sunday, the various specialized units of the cantonal police, in particular the mountain group as well as the technical and telecommunications officers, were engaged alongside the OCVS rescuers and the army air forces. 

Operations will continue overnight. 

In a separate news release published in the evening, the Valais police announced that an avalanche had carried away a skier traveling off-piste in Val Ferret on Sunday: “Freed from the snow mass, he was taken to hospital of Zion where he died. 

Other avalanches and heavy snowfall in the region have also buried roads, blocking traffic. 

Great caution is required over the coming days, when “the situation will be critical on the avalanche front,” warns the cantonal police. 

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