Canadian avalanche kills three, injures many

Hundreds attending snowmobile event in Canada hit by ‘a very big one’

A massive search-and-rescue
operation continued throughout the Saturday night in southwestern British
Columbia in Canada after an avalanche reportedly killed at least three people
and injured a dozen others as hundreds of people gathered on a treacherous
mountain to watch a snowmobiling event.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Revelstoke
said they don’t know how many people may still be buried in the slide that came
down around 6.30pm on Satuday.

About 200 people were attending the
annual Big Iron Shoot Out on Boulder Mountain near Revelstoke when the slide

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk with the police said
officers were moving people out of the area.

“The area has been shut down
to keep people out,” Mr. Moskaluk said. “They’re going to continue on
here with trying to remove people off the mountain in the area and tomorrow
reassess where we’re at.”

He said police did not yet have
details about the people who were killed or the extent of people’s injuries.

The avalanche occurred after the
Revelstoke-based Canadian Avalanche Centre issued an unprecedented fourth
warning in four weeks.

The warning encompassed the South
Columbia region, which includes Revelstoke, for Saturday and Sunday, after a
powerful storm blanketed the region with snow.

Mary Clayton, a spokeswoman for the
centre, told the Toronto Star Saturday night that the danger is coming from
weak layers in the upper snowpack.

“A fourth warning is
unprecedented in four weeks,” Clayton said. “This is an unusual
snowpack condition. In this situation, it’s not really obvious to a
back-country user, an amateur, that the snowpack layers are that sensitive to triggering.”

Kathy Berlingette, owner of Smokey
Bear Campground Resort in the area, said witnesses told her there were three
dead. RCMP were able to confirm only one fatality.

“The avalanche was about 25 or
30 feet deep, covered about a half a kilometre in distance. It was a very big
one,” said Berlingette, who wasn’t there but had guests who did take part.

Last winter there
were two dozen avalanche fatalities, and 13 the previous year.