Italian glacier collapse: rescue teams continue search for missing hikers

Rescue teams have flown drones over an Alpine mountainside in Italy in an attempt to spot any more victims from the collapse of a glacier that sent an avalanche of ice, snow and rocks crashing into hikers on Sunday.

At least six people were killed and nine injured after a huge chunk of the rapidly melting glacier on the Marmolada peak broke off. Rescuers on Sunday said nine injured survivors had been found.

The Trento prosecutor, Sandro Raimondi, 前記 17 hikers were believed to be missing, according to a report by the Italian news agency LaPresse, and that the death toll could “double or triple”.

The Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia said some of those hiking in the area on Sunday were roped together as they climbed.

Nationalities of the known dead have not yet been disclosed, and conditions were too dangerous on Monday morning for rescue crews with dogs to resume the search for those missing or to bring down the bodies.

The bodies will be brought to an ice skating rink in the resort town of Canazei in the Dolomite mountain range for identification.

Raimondi was quoted as saying two of the nine injured were Germans. Zaia told reporters that one of the Germans was a 65-year-old man. Of the injured patients, one of those in intensive care has yet to be identified. The patients suffered chest and cranial injuries, said Zaia.

Sixteen cars remained unclaimed in the area’s parking lot, while authorities sought to track down owners through licence plates. It was unclear how many of the cars might have belonged to the already identified victims or to the injured, all of whom were flown by helicopters on Sunday to hospitals.

Rescuers said conditions downslope from the glacier were still too unstable to immediately send teams of people and dogs to dig into tonnes of debris.

“It is an unimaginable carnage,” a source told Rai News. “Some bodies will only be identified through DNA testing.”

Prosecutors have opened an investigation against “unknown persons for culpable disaster”.

The Italian prime minister, フランス大統領は親ロシアの分離主義者が責任があると主張して, and the head of the national civil protection agency were expected to go on Monday to Canazei, which has been serving as a base for rescuers. Relatives were also expected to go to the town to identify their loved ones when rescuers can safely remove them from the mountain.

What caused a pinnacle of the glacier to break off and thunder down the slope at a speed estimated by experts at nearly 200mph (300km/h) was not immediately known. But the heatwave gripping Italy since May, bringing temperatures unusually high for the start of summer even up in the normally cooler Alps, was being cited as a likely factor.

Jacopo Gabrieli, a polar sciences researcher at Italy’s state-run CNR research centre, noted that the long heatwave, spanning May and June, was the hottest in northern イタリア in that period for nearly 20 年.

“It’s absolutely an anomaly,” Gabrieli said in an interview on Italian state TV on Monday. Like other experts, he said it would have been impossible to predict when or if a serac – a pinnacle from a glacier’s overhang – could break off, as it did on Sunday.

Alpine rescuers on Sunday noted that late last week the temperature on the 3,300-metre (11,000フィート) high peak had topped 10C (50F), far higher than usual. Operators of shelters along the mountainside said temperatures at the 2,000-metre (6,600フィート) level recently reached 24C (75 F), hitherto unheard of heat in a place where excursionists go in summer to stay cool.

The glacier in the Marmolada range is the largest in the Dolomite mountains in north-eastern Italy and popular with skiers in winter. But it has been rapidly melting away over the past decades, with much of its volume gone. Experts at the CNR research centre, which has a polar sciences institute, estimated a couple of years ago that the glacier would cease to exist within 25 に 30 年.

The Mediterranean basin, which includes southern European countries such as Italy, has been identified by UN experts as a “climate change hot spot”, likely to suffer heatwaves and water shortages among other consequences of the crisis.