Rescuers on alert as cold temperatures ice Italy's Alps

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The Independent Online

Rescue teams found two more bodies in Italy's Alps today, raising the death toll from the weekend's accidents in the ice-covered mountains to 12.

Rescue teams found two more bodies in Italy's Alps today, raising the death toll from the weekend's accidents in the ice-covered mountains to 12.

The two bodies were found on Mount Baldo, a few miles away from Verona, in the Veneto region. News reports said that one man died on Saturday and the other on Sunday. But it was not clear how the accidents occurred.

In the Lombardy region, where 10 people died in separate accidents Sunday as they slid for hundred of meters on a layer of ice, rescue teams were still on high alert.

Forecasters said that the cold snap, which was turning fresh snow into sheets of ice, would continue for at least two more days.

A beautiful day attracted lots of people to the slopes where the dropping temperatures - from about 2 C (36F) to minus-4C (25F) - early Sunday made for dangerous conditions in southern Alps for even experienced climbers, as most of the victims were.

The worst single accident occurred on 7,920 feet Mount Arera, where four men died. The peak is near Bergamo, 30 miles east of Milan in Italy's Lombardy region.

One of the climbers, a 34-year-old native of the region, died as he tried to rescue his huskies. He managed to keep one dog from falling, but couldn't save the other one and fell down himself. The other climbers slipped to their deaths also in futile rescue attempts, first trying to save the dogs, then themselves.

"I told him to leave the dogs with me," recalled Attilio Rizzi, the director of the Alpine refuge from where the man, Luigi Lazzaretti, had got off to his excursion. "They only brought back the oldest one."

Rizzi used his cellular phone to call rescue teams.

A fifth Italian man died climbing a nearby mountain to make a ski run. Onlookers lost sight of him but saw his skis fly up in the air without him. Helicopters later recovered his body.

Almost simultaneously, five climbers died in accidents on Alpine peaks around Lecco, all of them climbers dying singly or in pairs.

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