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When the avalanche hits: the final days of an avalanche

By John Bogle, Bloomberg News and Reuters, May 23, 2018 — The avalanche that swept through a ski resort on the Chilean Andes in May 2017 killed at least two people and left at least 14 others injured, including at least six in a critical condition, according to Chilean authorities and the first of the avalanche experts who worked on the site.

The avalanche struck a snow-covered cliff that had been left in place by an avalanche that destroyed the mountain resort in Chile’s mountain-rapid-fire-prone La Paz state on the weekend of May 21, killing at least 16 people and injuring dozens more, according the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Chilean National Institute of Geosciences and the Chilean Institute of Avalanche Studies said the avalanche was likely caused by an over-pronounced snowfall on the slopes of La Paza.

It said the ski resort and its surrounding area were inaccessible by road, rail or air.

Chilean rescue and rescue officials on Sunday identified the deceased as Miguel Estrada, 57, and Maria Correia, 62, both of La Peruana, according a statement from the National Institute for Meteorology and the Geography.

The National Institute’s statement did not give a reason for the death, and it did not identify the injured, the statement said.

The mountain resort was among the most popular resorts in La Pazer, one of the most dangerous areas of the Andes, and the avalanche came less than a month after a devastating avalanche in the mountainous region of the same name in April killed seven people.

The deaths, which were attributed to the same avalanche, prompted Chile to declare a state of emergency, which is the most severe measure it can take.

On Monday, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a bill allowing the government to spend about 10 percent of its budget on the avalanche response, a decision that was seen as a victory for the avalanche-rescue sector, which has suffered a drop in tourism and other economic activity in recent years.

The bill is aimed at saving the resort, which sits about 2,000 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level.

A total of 1,922 people died in avalanches in the Andean country in 2017, the National Meteorological Institute said in a statement on Monday.