July 25, 2007 / 8:49 AM / 13 years ago

Six Alpine climbers die in cold wave

(Releads with sixth death, adds details)

By Francesca Micheletti

MILAN, July 25 (Reuters) - Six mountain climbers have died of exposure in the Alps when temperatures plunged to well below freezing, Italian and French officials said on Wednesday.

The six died in three separate incidents on Tuesday while much of Italy was grappling with a heatwave that spawned brush fires that killed at least two people.

French authorities found four dead climbers on the Bionassay crest, on the French side of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, French police in Chamonix said.

Three of the climbers were identifed as being from Chile, France and from New Zealand. Authorities are trying to confirm the nationality of the fourth person.

"These climbers did not have a tent and their clothing was absolutely inadequate to deal with the sudden weather changes," Italian daily Corriere della Sera quoted French police official Olivier Kim as saying.

The four were students in the French city of Grenoble and between 20 and 25 years old, Italian newspapers said. French authorities could not confirm their ages.

A fifth climber, a Belgian man in his 50s, died in the Italian Alps in the Trentino area of northeastern Italy, police officials said.

A sixth person died near Monte Rosa, about 40 km (25 miles) east of Mont Blanc, an Italian civil protection official said late on Tuesday.

Italian newspapers identified the victim as a 49-year-old German woman.

A seventh climber, a German woman, is recovering in hospital in Zermatt, Switzerland, the Italian civil protection official said.

Forecasts had warned that bad weather was on the way, with temperatures falling from 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) to as low as minus 15C (5F), Italian papers reported.

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