Evacuations ordered as Mont Blanc glacier on brink of collapse

Italian prime minister says faster movement of Planpincieux glacier highlights climate crisis 

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 25 September 2019 16:55
Comments
The Planpincieux glacier (seen on the left) on the southern slopes of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc massif
The Planpincieux glacier (seen on the left) on the southern slopes of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc massif

An enormous glacier on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, is at risk of collapse, causing authorities to close roads and evacuate Alpine huts.

A piece of the Planpincieux glacier containing 250,000 cubic metres of ice could fall down the mountain, the mayor of nearby town Courmayeur, Stefano Miserocchi said, after experts found the sheet of ice was moving much faster than normal.

Mr Miserocchi has ordered the closing of two roads and the evacuation of huts on the mountain, which is 4,810 metres (15,780 feet) high, after experts said the glacier was threatening part of the Ferret Valley.

Between the end of August and the beginning of September, the lower part of the glacier was sliding at a speed of 50-60cm per day.

The glacier, which hangs over a precipice southeast of the mountain’s summit, is over a kilometre square, and has been closely monitored since 2013. During the summer months, it had previously moved at a rate only occasionally exceeding 30cm a day.

“These phenomena show once more how the mountain is experiencing a period of great changes due to climate factors, so it is especially vulnerable”, Mr Miserocchi said.

He said there was no immediate risk to residential areas.

The warning prompted Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte to mention the increased risks the climate crisis poses during an address at the UN general assembly on Wednesday.

“News that a glacier on Mont Blanc risks collapsing is a warning that can’t leave us indifferent, it must shake us up and we have to mobilise,” he said.

But experts have said there is no way of knowing exactly when the glacier will collapse, and there is no warning system in place.

Italy’s Fondazione Montagna Sicura (Safe Mountain Foundation) wrote on Facebook: “From 19.30pm today, the municipal road of Val Ferret will be closed – between the locations Montitaz and Planpincieux – and the road for the location for the potential glacial risk linked to the glacier of Planpincieux.”

Across the Alps, there is concern warmer temperatures are increasing the danger of melting permafrost and disappearing glaciers.

The World Meteorological Organisation warned in a new report released this week that if average temperatures continue to rise at current levels, the ice in the eastern and central areas of the Alps could disappear completely within two or three decades. Year-round glaciers would remain only in the western Alps, which are the tallest part of the mountain range.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in