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Four dead in Washington state avalanches

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Four people were killed in two separate avalanches near Washington state ski resorts on Sunday, but eight others initially said to be missing were found alive, authorities said.

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Three skiers died when an avalanche struck near the Stevens Pass ski area in the Cascade Mountains of north-central Washington, King County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West said.

She said eight other people listed as missing following the avalanche had been found alive and unharmed.

Authorities were withholding the names of those killed pending notification of next of kin.

“There are three confirmed dead,” West said. “The other individuals did self-rescue and are fine,”

The snow came down at a road about two miles from Stevens Pass and about 10 miles from the town of Skykomish.

In an unrelated incident, West said, a 41-year-old Seattle man was killed in an avalanche at the Alpental ski area while snowboarding out of bounds with friends.

“What the witnesses say is .... he started his own avalanche and the avalanche swept him down the hill and over a cliff, which was about a 500-foot fall,” she said.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center warned on Sunday of high avalanche danger above 5,000 feet in the Stevens Pass area, with considerable danger at lower altitudes.

The center said heavy snowfall of 30-35 inches in the area in recent days had triggered avalanches.

Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Tim Gaynor