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Boy rescued after 40 minutes under avalanche in French Alps 'miracle'

Jean-Pierre Clatot, AFP file photo | Nets erected to catch falling snow in the French Alps.

A 12-year-old boy in the French Alps was found alive by a sniffer dog after being buried under snow for 40 minutes, an event his rescuers are calling a true "miracle".

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French police in the town of Bourg Saint-Maurice said the boy was skiing off piste at the La Plagne ski resort in a group of seven skiers Wednesday when he was swept away.

The boy started going down ahead of the others and was the only one caught when a large section of snow detached and roared down the mountain, police said. He was dragged at least 100 metres (110 yards) by the force of the avalanche.

Rescue workers flew in a helicopter to the scene, which was at 2,400 metres (7,875 feet) altitude. A sniffer dog located the boy, whose winter jacket was not equipped with an avalanche detector.

Rescue workers described the operation as "miraculous" because they said chances of survival are minuscule after 15 minutes under the snow. Police said among the reasons the boy survived is that his airways were not blocked by snow.

"We can call it a miracle. A day after Christmas, there was another gift in store," Captain Patrice Ribes said.

The boy, who suffered a broken leg, was sent to a local hospital.

A total of 118 people were swept away by avalanches during last year’s skiing season, resulting in 36 deaths. Fatalities are generally caused by asphyxiation.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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