Avalanche kills five Menalon climbers

Five people were killed and six injured yesterday when an avalanche hit a group of 28 mountain climbers as they were descending Mount Menalon, near the town of Tripolis in the Peloponnese. The five were three men and two women and were thought to have been at the tail end of the group, officers said. Tripolis Police named the deceased as Fotis Varouxis, Fotini Sidirourgou, Emilios Harlaftis, Yiannis Basios and Diana Seale, a writer and copy editor for Kathimerini English Edition. The six, who were said to have suffered only minor injuries, were taken to a hospital in Tripolis, some 30 kilometers away. The climbers were members of the Greek Mountaineering Club of Athens and had set off from the capital yesterday morning to ascend the 1,500-meter-high mountain. It is thought that the avalanche occurred at around 1.30 p.m. as the group was on its way down. Authorities said the slide had probably been caused by changing temperatures which had caused some snow to become dislodged near the Ostrakina mountain refuge center. A helicopter, 50 firefighters, soldiers, policemen and a 15-member disaster relief squad from Elefsina with specially trained dogs as well as a team of volunteers from Patras, equipped with a snowmobile, were sent to the scene to help with the rescue operation shortly after the accident occurred. Efforts were hampered by thick fog and snowfall. Snow cover was over two meters deep on the mountain, authorities said.

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