Avalanche Engulfs Sledders, at Least 1 Dead

At least one person was killed and several others were feared buried after a massive avalanche engulfed a group of snowmobilers in western Canada, according to reports.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called to Eagle Pass Mountain in British Columbia at about 4 p.m. Friday after the category 4 avalanche struck, the Vancouver-based Province newspaper said. That size of snowslide can have a mass of 10,000 tonnes and travel more than a mile.

There were initial reports that up to 10 people had been buried, but The Province said police were still trying to determine how many had been in the group of sledders.

The avalanche is the second to hit the area in a week. On March 13, two people were killed and 31 injured when one hit spectators watching the Big Iron Shootout snowmobile event on Boulder Mountain.

In addition to the fatality, one person was injured in the Eagle Pass avalanche. That person was taken to hospital with minor injuries, but later released.

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk told the CBC news channel that an air and ground search involving police, avalanche dogs, search-and-rescue personnel and local helicopter operators was under way late Friday.

"There may have been a small group, or groups, gathered in an assembly spot at the bottom of the hill," Moskaluk told the Vancouver Sun.

Revelstoke mayor David Raven was quoted by the Sun as saying: "There’s just no way of knowing yet how many people were involved."

The search, which was called off at dusk Friday, was expected to be increased in scale Saturday, the Sun said.

British Columbia's Solicitor-General Kash Heed told the Sun that he was "disappointed" sledders had gone out at a time when the avalanche risk was high, calling it "another tragedy that could have been prevented."

Heed, also the province's minister of public safety, said he planned to meet other ministers to discuss taking urgent action, according to the Sun.

"We are going to be moving on ensuring that we are doing whatever we can to prevent these tragedies," he told the newspaper.

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