Search for missing after deadly Canadian avalanche

Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:40pm EDT
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Two people were killed, 30 injured and others feared buried in the snow after an avalanche struck a mountain snowmobile rally near Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canadian police said on Sunday.

Unstable snow conditions hampered efforts to get to search crews onto Boulder Mountain, where as many as 200 people were believed to be watching or participating in the annual event when the snow slide hit on Saturday, police said.

Police believe most of the people are accounted for but were canvassing hotels in Revelstoke, located about 195 miles west of Calgary, Alberta, to determine if tourists who attended the event might be missing.

"There could very well be injured persons or deceased persons that remain buried. We have not confirmed the whereabouts or identified all persons who were on the mountain," said Dan Moskaluk, a corporal with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Police initially thought three people were killed but later said there were only two fatalities. One of the 30 people known to have been injured in the slide was hospitalized in critical condition. Two others were in serious condition.

Survivors told local media of a chaotic scene of snowmobilers scrambling down the mountain to outrun the avalanche, or driving into the forest in hopes that the trees would protect them from the wall of snow.

The snow and debris pile left by the avalanche was believed to be as much as 30 feet deep, police said.

The event, which could only reached by snowmobile, featured competitors with high-powered machines racing up the mountain. The Canadian Avalanche Center, based in Revelstoke, had warned local residents that the risk of avalanches in backcountry mountain areas was high because of recent snowfall.

(Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Paul Simao)