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New Snowslide Worries France

February 11, 1999

CHAMONIX, France (AP) _ A snowslide damaged a chalet before being stopped short of smothering a tiny French hamlet Thursday _ a fresh reminder of the high risk of more deadly avalanches.

The new slide came as rescue workers dug out the frozen body of the 11th victim of a powerful avalanche that occurred three days earlier and just a few miles away. After nightfall, rescuers suspended their search for a 12th person, missing and presumed dead.

A massive anti-avalanche barrier held disaster at bay in Les Houches, six miles west of Chamonix. A chalet was slightly damaged and a modern hotel trembled from the shock. As a precaution, officials ordered about 300 people to leave the village.

About six miles to the north of Chamonix, sensors and dogs were used to search for the dead and the missing in the valley’s worst avalanche in 91 years.

A woman’s frozen body was pulled out from under 23 feet of snow, lodged against a chalet that had been destroyed by the force of the avalanche. Officials did not identify the woman, but have said a French ski guide and his girlfriend remained missing.

Temperatures have dropped well below freezing overnight, leaving rescuers little hope of finding anyone else alive under the snow and rubble.

More than 20 people were pulled out alive from under the tons of snow that roared down a mountainside Monday between the villages of Le Tour and Montroc-le-Planet in the French Alps, 30 miles southeast of Geneva.

Four children were among those killed, and 17 chalets were destroyed.

Warnings of new avalanches closed ski slopes throughout the valley, deserted by thousands of skiers who made their way out.

Snow kept falling in other parts of Europe, forcing evacuations and stranding thousands in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Snow even fell on the French Riviera and in Rome, where snow last fell in 1986.

In Rome’s historic center, snowflakes melted as they reached the ground but cars from the suburbs were covered with snow. Scores of traffic accidents were reported.

Hungary has been suffocated by the snow in recent days. Blizzards have dropped 6 feet in some places, and train service has stopped in most parts of the country. The army was put on alert as more snow is expected, and schools have been closed.

Many roads in Switzerland remained closed Thursday as a precaution against further avalanches.

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