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Young boy found alive after being buried by an avalanche

Isabella O'Malley
Digital Writer/Climate Change Reporter

Thursday, December 27, 2018, 7:18 PM - A 12 year old boy was found alive and uninjured after being buried by an avalanche at a ski resort in the French Alps.

As reported by the Associated Press, the boy was skiing off piste at the La Plagne ski resort on December 26 when he was swept away by the avalanche.

The boy was skiing in front of a group of six other skiers, and was the only one that got caught in a large section of snow that barreled down the mountain.

The force of the avalanche dragged the boy at least 100 metres, and rescue workers flew in a helicopter up to the avalanche scene, which was at 2,400 metres.

The boy's winter jacket was not equipped with an avalanche detector, and a sniffer dog was the first to detect him under the snow after he had been buried for 40 minutes. He was found without injuries, but was still taken to the hospital for a checkup.

Avalanches are one of the most dangerous natural hazards, and each passing minute decreases the chance of being found alive.

Avalanche in Zinal (Fêta d'Août), March 2007. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you are rescued within 15 minutes, you have a 90 per cent change of surviving, but that likelihood drops to 50 per cent if you are rescued within 30 minutes, and 20 to 30 per cent after 45 minutes.

The police state that given the length of the time the boy had been buried for, the rescue was 'miraculous.' The way the snow settled over the boy formed openings that did not block his airways, which significantly contributed to the boy's survival.


Avalanches occur when the snowpack, which is layers of snow that have accumulated, on the side of a mountain experiences some type of disturbance and the top layer breaks off. This massive slab of snow tumbles down the mountainside and shatters like broken glass, and can travel at speeds up to 130 km/h within five seconds. While fatalities can occur from asphyxiation when the victim is submerged in snow, many fatalities occur from the sheer blunt force trauma.

Avalanches are most common during and within one day after a storm where +30 cm of snow accumulated. The weight of the rapid pileup of snow overloads the underlying snowpack, which weakens its stability.

In 90 per cent of avalanche incidents, the snow slides can caused by the victim or the victim's party, which are typically snowmobilers, skiers, and snowboarders.

According to the International Commission for Alpine Rescue, approximately 150 fatalities related to avalanches occur each year.


Moving sideways as the avalanche begins is the best strategy to avoid the center of an avalanche, which is where the snow moves the fastest.

Grabbing on to a nearby tree or boulder would allow the avalanche to flow past you and block you from the sheer blunt force trauma depending on the avalanche's strength.

The human body is denser than snow, which causes people to sink as the avalanche flows downhill. Once the avalanche settles, the surrounding snow settles like concrete, which prevents movement and increases risk of asphyxiation.

To avoid submerging further underneath the snow, 'swimming' is the best option to help you stay afloat and keep your head in the open air while the avalanche is occurring.

Survival equipment is essential for those travelling in remote mountainous areas, and items include: an avalanche receiver and probe, a small shovel, a helmet.


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