Two hikers trekking across the Italian Alps on snowshoes were killed when an avalanche crashed down the slope near the border with Switzerland on Sunday, rescue officials said.
The avalanche was triggered around noon at an elevation of 7,200 feet (2,200 meters) in the Formazza valley in the Piedmont region, Italian Alpine rescue group CNSAS said in a statement.
The body of one snowshoe hiker was found buried in the snow while the other body was recovered from a lake after the force of the avalanche swept it down the slope, according to rescuers.
The search operation was launched after guards at a nearby dike reported seeing an avalanche strike two hikers, said rescue service spokesman Federico Catania, according to the Associated Press.
Rescuers reached the area by helicopter, battling strong winds and low visibility to search for the hikers, rescue officials said. A trained rescue dog helped searchers locate the bodies in the snow.
To recover the body of the hiker swept into the lake, Italy’s Vigili del Fuoco rescue service said a helicopter was used to lower divers in a “complex” effort.
While officials did not immediately release the identities of the two hikers, Italian media reported that the victims were a 30-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man from the Lombardy region in northern Italy, according to Reuters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.