GRENOBLE, France - Seven people were killed Tuesday when an avalanche swept them away in the French Alps, a local official told AFP, the deadliest snowslide to hit the popular mountain range this year.

“The toll has increased - seven people have died,” said the official, Pierre Besnard, who had earlier put the number of deaths at five, with two people missing.

He added that rescuers were continuing their search to make sure there were no other victims.

The avalanche struck around midday at the Snow Dome in the Alps’ Massif des Ecrins, an easy-to-access 4,015-metre (13,170-feet) high mountain that is hugely popular with climbers. It swept away eight people, among whom were foreign climbers, police said, adding they did not yet know their nationalities. One person was injured.

Climbers and skiers are sporadically caught in avalanches in the popular Alps, particularly during the winter season, but this is the deadliest accident so far this year.

In January, six skiers were carried away by an avalanche in the Queyras mountain range of the Alps, and just over two months later, three died in the Massif des Ecrins.

Christian Flagella, a member of the police force in the Hautes-Alpes region where the mountain is located, said the avalanche was likely triggered when a layer of snow separated and hurtled down the hill. “The conditions are winter-like at the moment,” he said.