At least six people were killed and nine others were injured when a sizable portion of an Alpine glacier came away and rushed down a mountain in Italy on Sunday. Authorities warned that the death toll could rise.
Alpine glacier chunk detaches
The toll was provided, but a local Civil Protection official, Gianpaolo Bottacin, stressed that the situation was “changing” and that there could be as many as 15 individuals missing.
A phone number to call for relatives or friends in the event of “failure to return from probable trips” to the glacier was tweeted by the National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps in the late evening.
Rescuers were looking at license plates in the parking lot as part of their investigations to see how many people might still be missing, which could take hours, according to Corps spokesman Walter Milan, who spoke to The Associated Press by phone.
The Marmolada range’s glacier, which is the biggest in the Dolomite mountains of northeastern Italy, is where tourists go skiing in the winter. However, in recent years, the glacier has been rapidly melting away.
The glacier will cease to exist in the next 25 to 30 years, according to experts at Italy’s government-run CNR research center, which houses a polar sciences institute. A large portion of its volume has already vanished.
According to U.N. experts, the Mediterranean basin, which is shared by southern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa, is a “climate change hot area” that would likely experience heat waves and water shortages among other effects.
Rescuer Luigi Felicetti, who appeared tired, said to Italian state television, “We saw dead (people) and large slabs of ice, rock.
The dead’s nationalities or ages weren’t immediately known, according to Milan.
Authorities reported that two of the hospitalized survivors were in critical condition.
According to the local online news outlet ildolomiti, the swiftly moving avalanche “came down with a noise that could be heard at vast distance.” It said.
As rescuers assessed the possibility that more of the glacier could break off, the helicopter and dog search for any additional victims or missing persons was temporarily suspended for the night, according to Walter Cainelli, who had just completed a rescue mission with a search dog.
Rescuers reported that ice blocks continued to fall. Early in the evening, a gentle drizzle started to fall.
The Alpine rescue corps will evacuate 18 persons who were above the location where the ice struck, according to the SUEM dispatch agency, which is situated in the neighbouring Veneto province.
According to the local emergency services, several of the hikers in the region where the avalanche tore through were bound together by rope.
However, Milan claimed that some of the hikers could be able to descend alone, possibly even by using the peak’s cable car.
According to SUEM, the avalanche was a “pouring down of snow, ice, and rock.” A serac, or pinnacle of ice, is the name for the detached portion.
The tallest of the 18 peaks in the eastern range of the Italian Alps, Marmolada, known as the “queen of the Dolomites,” rises to a height of around 3,300 meters (about 11,000 feet) and provides breathtaking vistas of other Alpine peaks.
The portion “broke off near Punta Rocca (Rock Point), along the itinerary generally used to reach the peak,” the Alpine Rescue Service tweeted.
What caused the piece of ice to separate and rush down the peak’s slope wasn’t immediately apparent. But one potential factor was the extreme heat wave that has been sweeping over Italy since late June.
The partial collapse of the glacier was “obviously influenced” by the temperatures of recent days, according to Maurizio Fugatti, the president of Trento Province, which borders Marmolada.
Milan emphasized that the exceptionally high temperatures that were above 10 C (50 F) on Marmolada’s top recently were only one potential contributing factor to Sunday’s catastrophe.
“There are so many potential contributing factors,” Milan stated. He claimed that while avalanches in general are unpredictable, the impact of heat on a glacier “is even more impossible to forecast.”
Milan described the current conditions as “severe heat” for the summit in separate comments to Italian state media. “There’s something weird about it,”
According to the rescue services, the injured were transported to a number of hospitals in the Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto regions.
Prosecutors launched an investigation into the avalanche to investigate if there was any evidence of potential criminality, as has happened in other natural catastrophe cases in Italy.