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USSR AVALANCHE KILLS 40 CLIMBERS

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An avalanche in the Pamirs mountain chain of Soviet Central Asia killed at least 40 mountaineers, including 13 foreigners, the official Tass news agency said Tuesday.

Tass said 43 people died in the accident Friday but Vladimir Shataev, coach of the Soviet national mountaineering team, cited 40 deaths and three survivors.In Geneva, the Swiss alpine club also said 43 people died. It said 10 climbers, all Swiss, survived the accident at the two countries' joint expedition base.

The avalanche occurred Friday on 23,406-foot Lenin Peak on the border of the Kirghizia and Tadzhikistan republics, but a telegram about the tragedy did not reach the Soviet Mountaineering Federation until Monday, Tass said.

"There has never been a tragedy like this in the history of Soviet mountaineering," Shataev said.

The Swiss account said the avalanche was started by an earth tremor, but the Soviet sources did not cite a cause.

Shataev said at least 40 people died in the accident, including 23 Soviets from Leningrad, three from the Tadzhik capital of Dushanbe, one from the Kazakh city of Chimkent, six foreign visitors from Czechoslovakia, four from Israel, two from Switzerland and one from Spain.

The avalanche trapped the victims in a popular camp at 17,400 feet on the highest mountain in the Trans-Alai Range at the northern edge of the Pamirs.

Shataev said three people who had started their descent from the camp are believed to have survived the tragedy, but that a large amount of snow on the mountain was hindering a search effort by 30 people.