France calls off search for missing climbers

December 05, 2012 - 6:55:06 am

GAP, France: French rescuers yesterday called off a search for two Italian heart specialists and a guide missing in the French Alps for nearly 10 days, saying there was little chance they were still alive.

“We have unfortunately given up hope of finding the three climbers alive, given the normal survival time and the bad weather conditions,” the prefect of the Hautes-Alpes region, Jacques Quastana, told a press conference in the town of Gap.

The three men are Damiano Barabino, a 32-year-old cardiologist from Genoa, Francesco Cantu, a 41-year-old senior heart surgeon from Lecco and Luca Gaggianese, a 49-year-old mountain guide from Milan. The trio of experienced climbers set out on November 23 and successfully completed an extremely difficult ascent of the Barre des Ecrins, a 4,102m (13,458-foot) peak, before going missing on their descent.

Mountain rescuers used helicopters and sniffer dogs to try to find the three men, but to no avail. “We never succeeded in entering into direct contact with the climbers. We explored every possible and imaginable avenue without finding the slightest trace,” said Stephane Bozon, chief of the local PGHM mountain rescue service.  AFP