Italian Alps: 17 people still missing after glacier collapses

Unseasonable high temperatures have been blamed for the disaster

<p>A rescue helicopter flies on July 4, 2022 over the glacier that collapsed the day before on the mountain of Marmolada, the highest in the Dolomites</p>

A rescue helicopter flies on July 4, 2022 over the glacier that collapsed the day before on the mountain of Marmolada, the highest in the Dolomites

Seventeen people remain missing on Monday after a massive chunk of ice of the Marmolada glacier in Italy’s Trentino region collapsed, killing at least seven hikers, including two Italians and one Czech.

Mountain rescue units worked through the night and warned that approximately 30 people could have been in the area when the tide of snow, ice and rocks tumbled at high speed towards the valley.

“There have been other detachments of seracs [block of ice] … but we have never seen such a large mass of ice with a front of over 80 metres come down,” Alpine rescue member Mario Brunello told newspaper La Repubblica.

Thunderstorms hampered the search for survivors on Monday. Italy’s state TV said another body was recovered, raising the known death toll to seven.

Nine others were injured. According to media reports, those feared missing include some Italians, three Romanians, one with French nationality, another from Austria, and four from the Czech Republic.

Unseasonably high temperatures across the country are thought to have caused the deadly avalanche, with the thermometers in Marmolada touching 10C on Saturday.

“For weeks the temperatures at altitude in the Alps have been well beyond normal values,” said Renato Colucci, a glacier specialist quoted by the Italian agency AGI. The phenomenon was “bound to repeat itself”.

According to a March report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), melting ice and snow is one of 10 major threats caused by global warming, disrupting ecosystems and infrastructure.

“The glacier destabilised at its base due to the large availability of melting water after weeks of extremely high temperatures,” the Alpine-Adriatic Meteorological Society said on Sunday.

The search mission for the estimated 17 missing people was suspended at midday on Monday because of bad weather, with rescuers warning there may not be any survivors left.

“They’re difficult to identify,” one rescuer told La Repubblica. “The bodies have been torn apart.”

Italians have taken to social media to mourn the dead and express their frustration with a tragedy that many believe could have been avoided.

“One year ago I was showing Marmolada glacier to my daughters, telling them, ‘I am happy you got the chance to see it before it disappears,’” one Twitter user wrote. “Today I am crying. Science proved that all of this is fossil fuel responsibility. Shame on governments supporting it”.

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