A 12-year-old boy has been found alive and uninjured in the French Alps after being submerged under an avalanche for 40 minutes. French police in the town of Bourg Saint-Maurice described his rescue as a “miracle.”
Bourg-Saint-Maurice, popularly known as Bourg, is a commune in the Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France and is the last town along the Tarentaise valley in the French Alps. The town is part of the Paradiski ski area, which features 425 kilometers of slopes, 141 lifts and 239 slopes. The site is linked to Arc 1600 by the Arc en Ciel funicular railway and is home to numerous rental properties.
The boy, who was skiing off-piste at the La Plagne ski resort with seven other skiers last week, was swept away by an unexpected avalanche. The boy was ahead of his fellow skiers when he was caught by a large section of snow that rolled down the mountain. He was dragged approximately 110 yards by the weight of the avalanche.
The boy, who was 7,875 feet up the mountain, was found by rescue workers who arrived at the scene by helicopter. A sniffer dog located the young skier, whose winter jacket did not have an avalanche detector.
Although the exact process is not yet fully understood, avalanche search and rescue dogs identify human scent from skin rafts, scent-carrying skin cells that fall from living humans at a rate of roughly 40,000 cells per minute, evaporated sweat, and lung or decomposition gases that are released by bacterial action on skin or tissues. Avalanche dogs are capable of smelling people that are under as much as 15 feet of snow. Among the breeds used for this task are St. Bernards, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers.
Despite being trapped for nearly 40 minutes, the rescue workers were able to find the boy alive and well, something they described as “miraculous” since the chance of survival after 15 minutes under snow is minimal. Police said he was able to endure because his airways were not obstructed by snow. “We can call it a miracle. A day after Christmas, there was another gift in store,” Captain Patrice Ribes said.
Although he was apparently unharmed, the boy was taken to a local hospital for a checkup.