PARIS -- An avalanche in the French Alps swept seven climbers to their deaths on Tuesday on one of the region's most popular routes, the prefect of the Hautes-Alpes region said.
The avalanche struck three groups of roped climbers, said Pierre Besnard, the ranking state official in the region.
Victims included at least two nationalities, Besnard told BFM television. He didn't name the countries. The bodies were taken to the town of Briancon.
The avalanche of snow hit on the dome of the Ecrins massif, which reaches 4,000 meters (13,000 feet), near the town of Pelvoux. Top-level climbing skills aren't needed on the dome, according to local climbing sites. However, Col. Christian Flagella told iTele TV station that the area can become "relatively dangerous" under certain conditions.
The guardian of a nearby refuge alerted authorities to the avalanche, the prefect said.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said three helicopters had been mobilized, along with two teams of search dogs. The rescue teams were scouring the area to ensure they had found all the victims.