By Concise News Correspondent

Rescuers work in an off-piste area after an avalanche engulfed nine people, killing at least four, in Tignes, in the French Alps, in a picture made available by Radio Val d’Isere on Febuary 13, 2017 © RADIO VAL D’ISERE/AFP

Rescue workers say four skiers have died while five are missing in the French Alps after a massive avalanche swept through Tignes ski resort on Monday.

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The huge cascade of snow and ice, some 400 metres (yards) wide, was apparently set off by a group of skiers higher up the mountain, the station said in a statement.

The four victims were from a group of nine people — eight holidaymakers and a guide — who were skiing off-piste when the avalanche hit.

A rescue official from the nearby town of Albertville said a search was underway for the five others.

The five were initially feared buried under a huge mass of snow but it later emerged that the group may have split in two before the avalanche, meaning they may have escaped the accident.

The avalanche was the deadliest of its kind in the French Alps since the start of the winter.

Last month, 29 people died in Italy after an avalanche buried a hotel in the central town of Rigopiano.