Italy: at least six dead in the Alps after the collapse of a glacier

Eight injured are also to be deplored, said the Italian authorities, without giving details on the nationality of the victims.

A huge block broke off Sunday afternoon from the Marmolada glacier, the largest in the Italian Alps, causing an avalanche that left at least six dead and eight injured. Relief spokeswoman Michela Canova told AFP at the start of the evening that the death toll, initially five dead, had risen to “six confirmed victims“.

Eight injured are also to be deplored: two of them were transported to Belluno hospital, a more serious one to Treviso, and five to Trento, she said, without giving details on the nationality of the victims. Several helicopters were deployed on the spot to take part in the rescue operations and monitor the evolution of the situation. Indeed, this collapse occurred the day after a record temperature at the top of the glacier, ten degrees.

According to Renato Colucci, a specialist in glaciers quoted by the Italian agency AGI, this phenomenon “is bound to repeat itself“, because “for weeks the temperatures at altitude in the Alps have been well above normal values“.

Greyish tongue

The relief spokeswoman described “an avalanche of snow, ice and rock which in its path hit the access road when several ropes were there, some of which were swept away“. “The definitive number of climbers involved is not yet known.“, she added. According to the civil protection department of the nearby Veneto region (north-east), “all the alpine rescue teams in the area have been mobilized», including canine units. The glacier collapsed near the locality Punta Rocca, along the route normally taken to reach its summit.

Footage filmed from a shelter near the disaster shows snow mixed with rock rolling down the slopes of the mountain with a crashing sound. Other images taken by tourists on their cellphones show from afar the grayish tongue of the avalanche sweeping away everything in its path, leaving no chance for climbers in its path.

On images transmitted by the Alpine rescue, we can see the rescuers working near the site of the disaster overflown by helicopters to transport the victims in the valley to the village of Canazei, not far from the place from where the cable car leaves. which leads to the summit of the glacier. The work of the rescuers was particularly difficult because they had to extract the bodies from the gangue of ice mixed with rock where they were. A cell of psychologists has also been activated to help the relatives of the victims. The Trente public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation to determine the causes of this tragedy.

According to scientist Renato Colucci, “the extreme heat of the last few days (…) has probably produced a large quantity of liquid water from the melting of the glacier and accumulating at the base of the blockwhich then collapsed for lack of support. The Marmolada glacier, nicknamedthe queen of the Dolomitesis the largest glacier in this mountain range in northern Italy that is part of the Alps. Located in Trentino, it gives birth to the Avisio River and overlooks Lake Fedaia.

According to the IPCC report published on March 1, the melting of ice and snow is one of the ten major threats caused by global warming, disrupting ecosystems and threatening certain infrastructures.

According to the IPCC, glaciers in Scandinavia, central Europe and the Caucasus could lose 60 to 80% of their mass by the end of the century. The traditional life of peoples like the Sami in Lapland, who practice reindeer herding, is already disrupted. In Canada and Russia, thawing permafrost is hampering economic activities.

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