Two Italian climbers killed in Mont-Blanc avalanche

GRENOBLE, France (AFP) - Two Italians died overnight on Tuesday after they were swept away by an avalanche while climbing in the Mont Blanc massif in the French Alps, local officials said.

Six climbers were caught up in the avalanche as they were ascending Mont Blanc du Tacul, at an altitude of 4,200m, the gendarmerie in the Haute-Savoie region said.

Three of the six were buried under the snow, including the two Italians, who were later found dead, and a third climber who was rescued alive.

No further details regarding the identities of the victims were immediately available.

Thousands of tourists flock to the French Alps annually for sports including mountain climbing and skiing, but every year some fall victim to accidents.

Every summer, some 20,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in western Europe, with up to 500 a day during peak times.

In the deadliest accident in years, nine Europeans - three Germans, a Swiss, two Spaniards and three Britons - were killed in July last year after an avalanche engulfed a group of climbers in the Mont Blanc massif.