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18 Jan, 2021 18:30

Reports blame men firing 'artillery shells' as one dead & 12 buried under snow after killer avalanche at Russian winter resort

Rescuers are working to find skiers buried in a deadly snowdrift at a Russian resort in the Caucasus Mountains, with one person confirmed to have been killed and many more remain missing.

Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations explained to the RBC news network that a recovery mission was underway after the avalanche on Monday in the Dombay area, in the southern region of Karachay-Cherkessia. One body has been pulled from the snow, while anywhere between four and 12 people could still be buried, a spokesman said.

Another source with knowledge of events told Interfax that two ski equipment rental vehicles had been buried, and a cafe building had been damaged in the flurry. Local media reported that a further four people have been injured, and a woman was rescued from the snowdrift. It has also been reported that the President of the Dombay Ski Federation was killed in the avalanche.

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Dramatic footage posted on social media shows the snowdrift hitting the resort, with skiers struggling to get clear of the deluge. Clips also show teams of rescuers using heavy machinery to clear the snow, pushing poles into the ground to check for survivors.

The Mash news channel on Telegram has reported claims from local residents that the avalanche was caused by the firing of an artillery piece. Footage posted by the network appears to show five men shooting shells from a cannon on a hillside. It is said that it may have been part of an attempt to deliberately trigger an avalanche, which then went in the wrong direction.

Earlier this month, three people were reported to have died in a similar incident at another Russian ski resort. The bodies of a 45-year-old man, his 38-year-old wife and their 18-month-old child were retrieved from the snow. The couple's eldest son, 14, was admitted to hospital in a serious condition and also suffered from frostbite.

Cities across Russia, including the capital Moscow, have seen dramatic snowfall this week, with temperatures plunging below minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).

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