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Four climbers killed in avalanche
Four people have been killed and a woman is seriously hurt after a group of six climbers were caught up in an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands.
Emergency services were alerted to the accident on Bidean Nam Bian, in Glencoe, at about 2pm on Saturday and a major search operation involving two mountain rescue teams and police dogs was launched.
Northern Constabulary said four people, two men and two women, were found and have since been pronounced dead. One male climber, who stayed with the teams to help with the search, is safe and well while a woman is in a serious condition in Belford hospital in Fort William.
John Grieve, leader of Glencoe mountain rescue team, which co-ordinated the search, said the alarm was initially raised by two climbers - who were not part of the group of six - when they discovered one of the casualties lying in the snow.
But, soon after, police were contacted by the male survivor from the climbing party, who told them more people were missing.
Mr Grieve, who is in Spain and was not part of the search, said: "The first call to police was from two other people who had been on the mountain, they found someone lying next to where they were climbing. So, the assumption was that it was just one casualty, but it became clear that there were others missing when they heard from the man who is safe."
He said the deceased climbers were located using a technique called "probing", where a metal stick is pushed into the snow. "I'm not sure how deeply buried they were, but using that technique would suggest it was more than a metre," Mr Grieve said.
Police said they are making efforts to identify the deceased and to contact their next of kin.
Mark Diggins, co-ordinator of the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, said the weather conditions were fairly dry with little snow over the last four days. He said Saturday's avalanche risk was deemed "considerable", second lowest on a European four-point scale. The most serious is "very high", which is extremely rare in Britain. "An avalanche is possible to be triggered by a single person," said Mr Diggins. "At the moment it doesn't look like there's much snow, it is very localised. You're really getting into areas which are 800 metres up because the wind packs the snow to make it hard."
Anyone who is concerned about relatives climbing in the area are advised to contact Northern Constabulary's control room on 01463 715555.