Home World News Rain hampers search for missing in Italian glacier avalanche

Rain hampers search for missing in Italian glacier avalanche


ROME (AP) — Thunderstorms on Monday hampered the search for more than a dozen hikers who went missing for a day after a huge chunk of an alpine glacier in Italy broke off, sending an avalanche of ice, snow and rocks on the slope. Italian public television said another body had been found, bringing the known death toll to seven.

Nine other people were injured when the avalanche erupted from the Marmolada Glacier on Sunday afternoon as dozens of hikers were out hiking, some of them roped up.

Trento prosecutor Sandro Raimondi said 17 hikers were initially missing, Italian news agency LaPresse reported. But later, state television RAI reported from the scene that the number of missing people fell to 15 after authorities were able to locate some of those missing.

The detached block of ice was massive, estimated to be 200 meters (yards) wide, 80 meters high and 60 meters deep. Governor Luca Zaia, whose Veneto region in northeast Italy borders the Marmolada region, likened the avalanche to a “residential building (size) block of ice with debris and masses cyclopeans of rock”.

“I can’t say anything but the facts, and the facts tell us that high temperatures don’t favor these situations,” Zaia told reporters.

Italy is in the grip of a week-long heat wave, and alpine rescuers said the temperature at glacier altitude last week rose above 10C (50F) when it is generally expected above the freezing point at this time of year.

An ice rink in the Canazei resort in the Dolomites served as a makeshift morgue to identify the dead, a task made more difficult and gruesome because rescuers said in some cases body parts had been found strewn across a vast area.

At least four bodies brought to the rink had been identified Monday afternoon.

RAI said three of those identified were Italians, including an experienced alpine guide. Another was a hiker whose relatives said he had just sent a selfie of himself from the slope shortly before the avalanche fell.

One of the dead was from Czechia, RAI said.

According to the media, the missing persons are several Italians, three Romanians, one of French nationality, another from Austria and four from the Czech Republic.

Raimondi reportedly said two of the injured were Germans. Zaia told reporters that one of the Germans was a 65-year-old man. Among the patients was so seriously injured, so far, identification has been impossible.

Drones have been used to help search for the missing and verify security.

Sixteen cars lay unclaimed in the area’s parking lot and authorities sought to trace the occupants through license plates. It is unclear how many cars may have belonged to the already identified victims or the injured, all of whom were airlifted by helicopter to hospitals on Sunday.

What caused a top of the glacier to break off and rumble down the slope at a speed estimated by experts at around 300 km/h (nearly 200 mph), was not immediately known.

But high temperatures have been widely cited as a likely factor.

Jacopo Gabrieli, a polar scientist at the Italian research center CNR, noted that the long heat wave, which runs from May to June, was the hottest in northern Italy during this period for nearly 20 years old.

“It’s absolutely an anomaly,” Gabrieli said in an interview with Italian public television on Monday. Like other experts, he said it would have been impossible to predict when or if a serac – a summit of the overhang of a glacier – might rupture, as it did on Sunday.

Operators of rustic mountainside shelters said temperatures at the 2,000-metre (6,600ft) level had recently hit 24C (75F) – unheard of in a place where day-trippers go by summer to cool off.

The glacier, in the Marmolada range, is the largest of the Dolomite mountains in northeast Italy. People ski on it in winter. But the glacier has rapidly melted in recent decades, with much of its volume gone. Experts from the Italian research center CNR, which has a polar science institute, estimated a few years ago that the glacier would disappear within 25 to 30 years.

The Mediterranean basin, which includes southern European countries such as Italy, has been identified by UN experts as a “climate change hotspot”, susceptible to heat waves and water shortages. water, among other consequences.

Pope Francis, who has made the planet a priority of his papacy, tweeted an invitation to pray for avalanche victims and their families. “The tragedies we are experiencing with climate change must push us to urgently seek new ways that respect people and nature,” Francis wrote.