The fast-moving avalanche “came down with a roar that could be heard from a great distance,” local online media site ildolomiti.it said.
The search by helicopter and dogs for any more victims or missing persons was halted overnight as rescuers assessed the risk that more of the glacier could break off, Walter Cainelli, president of Trentino Alpine and Speleological Rescue, told state television after conducting a survey. a rescue mission with a sniffer dog.
Rescuers said more and more ice blocks were falling. Early in the evening it started to rain lightly.
The SUEM dispatch service, which is based in the nearby Veneto region, said 18 people who were above the area where the ice hit would be evacuated by the Alpine rescue corps.
Some of those who made the trip in the area the avalanche swept through were tied together with ropes, according to local emergency services.
But Milan said some hikers may be able to get down on their own, including using the peak’s funicular.
SUEM said the avalanche consisted of “crashed snow, ice and rock”. The freestanding portion is known as a serac or the pinnacle of ice.
Also called the “Queen of the Dolomites”, Marmolada rises about 3300 meters and is the highest of the 18 peaks in the eastern part of the Italian Alps, offering spectacular views of other Alpine peaks.
The rescue service said in a tweet that the segment broke off near Punta Rocca (Rock Point), “along the route normally used to reach the summit”.
It was not immediately clear what caused the chunk of ice to break loose and descend the slope of the summit. But the intense heat wave that has gripped Italy since late June loomed as a possible factor.
“The temperatures of these days clearly influenced” the partial collapse of the glacier, Maurizio Fugatti, the president of the province of Trento, which borders Marmolada, told Sky TG24 news.
But Milan stressed that the high heat, which has been unusually above 10 degrees at Marmolada’s peak in recent days, was just one possible factor in Sunday’s tragedy.
“There are so many factors that can come into play,” Milan said. Avalanches are generally unpredictable, he said, and the effect of heat on a glacier “is even more impossible to predict.”
In separate comments to Italian state television, Milan called the recent temperatures “extreme heat” before the peak. “It’s clearly something abnormal.”
Experts at the state-run CNR Research Center in Italy, which has an institute of polar sciences, say the glacier will be gone in the next 25-30 years and much of its volume has already disappeared.
Shared by Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, the Mediterranean Basin has been identified by UN experts as a “climate change hotspot”, which will suffer from heatwaves and water shortages, among other things.
The injured were flown to several hospitals in the Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto regions, according to rescue services.
As in other cases of natural disasters in Italy, prosecutors opened an investigation to see if there was evidence of possible misconduct in connection with the avalanche.