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Avalanche raises spectre of worst death toll in Alps for over 50 years

100 people have been killed by avalanches in the Alps in 2008, one of the worst years since 1951

The accident has brought the total number of deaths from avalanches in the Alps this year to 100, making it THE WORST YEAR SINCE 1970, which in turn was the worst since the "Winter of Terror" of 1951 when 200 climbers died. This summer season more than 30 people have died in the French Alps, most of them near Mont-Blanc, and a further 60 have perished in the Italian and Swiss Alps. Sunday's disaster was the biggest in what has been a tragic summer on the Alps. The serac which broke off near the summit was the size of a four-story building and, by the time the resulting avalanche hit dozens of climbers toiling up the slope in the hours before dawn, it was travelling at about 60mph. Winter avalanches cause injury by burying climbers, but summer icefall avalanches kill by the impact of the ice, "which is not much different to being hit by a rock". In 1951: during a three-month period 649 avalanches killed 265 people in Austria and Switzerland. Villages and thousands of acres of forests were destroyed.

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