TWO climbers caught in an avalanche in the French Alps which has killed nine people have York connections, it has been claimed tonight.

Three of those who died near the ski resort of Chamonix are from the UK, and Coun Ian Gillies, leader of City of York Council's Conservative group, told his fellow councillors he had been informed two of the victims were from the York area at a meeting of the authority tonight.

Four other climbers who were believed to be missing - two of whom are British - have now been accounted for. It is not yet known for certain whether York climbers are among the survivors or casualties of the avalanche.

The alarm was raised at 5.25am local time - 3.25am GMT - by one of the injured climbers on the slopes of Mont Maudit, with the groups believed to have reached 4,000m when the avalanche struck.

Three of the victims are from Germany, with two being from Spain and one from Switzerland. The Foreign Office has confirmed one of the dead Britons was Roger Payne, a former chief executive of the British Mountaineering Council and president of the British Mountain Guides, and the next of kin of those who died have been informed.

Alpine authorities said the tragedy was the deadliest avalanche in recent memory, with 12 other climbers reported injured.