Drones search for 17 missing after glacier collapse in Italy that killed 6

About 17 people remain missing for a day after a huge chunk of an Alpine glacier broke off and slammed into hikers in northern Italy, officials said Monday.

At least six people were killed and nine injured by the avalanche of ice, snow and large rocks that thundered off the slope of the mountain with the Marmolada Glacier on Sunday afternoon.

Trento’s prosecutor Sandro Raimondi said 17 hikers were believed to be missing, Italian news agency LaPresse reported.

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

Conditions too dangerous for rescue workers

Nationalities of the known dead were not disclosed and conditions were too dangerous Monday morning for dog rescue teams to resume the search for missing persons or take down the bodies.

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

Raimondi said two of the nine injured are Germans. Zaia told reporters that one of the Germans had a…
65 year old male. Of the injured patients, one of the patients in the intensive care unit has yet to be identified.

This Monday image shows the glacier that collapsed the day before. (Pierre Teyssot/AFP/Getty Images)

The patients had injuries to the chest and skull, Zaia said.

Drones were used to search for missing persons and to verify security.

Sixteen cars remained unclaimed in the area’s parking lot and authorities attempted to track down the occupants through license plates. It was unclear how many of the cars might have been among the already identified victims or of the injured, all of whom were flown by helicopter to hospitals on Sunday.

Collapse estimated at 300 km/h

Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the head of the national civil defense agency were scheduled to head to Canazei on Monday, a tourist town in the Dolomites Mountains that has served as a base for rescue workers.

What caused a top of the glacier to break off and crash down the slope at a speed estimated by experts at about 300 km/h was not immediately known. But the heat wave that has gripped Italy since May, leaving temperatures unusually high for the start of summer, even in the normally cooler Alps, was cited as a likely factor.

Jacopo Gabrieli, a polar science researcher at the state-run CNR research center in Italy, noted that the long heatwave, which stretched into May and June, was the hottest in northern Italy during that period for nearly 20 years. year.

“It is definitely an anomaly,” Gabrieli said in an interview on Italian state television on Monday. Like other experts, he said it would have been impossible to predict when and if a serac — a pinnacle of a glacier’s overhang — could break down, as it did on Sunday.

Alpine rescuers noted on Sunday that late last week the temperature on the 3,300-meter summit had reached 10°C, much higher than normal. Operators of rustic shelters along the mountainside said temperatures at the level of 2,000 meters recently reached 24°C, unheard of heat in a place tourists flock in the summer to keep cool.

The glacier, in the Marmolada Mountains, is the largest in the Dolomites in northeastern Italy. In the winter people ski on it. But the glacier has been melting rapidly in recent decades and much of its volume has disappeared. Experts at the CNR Research Center, which has an institute for polar sciences, estimated a few years ago that the glacier will cease to exist within 25 to 30 years.

The Mediterranean basin, which includes southern European countries such as Italy, has been identified by UN experts as a “climate change hot spot”, which will suffer from heat waves and water shortages, among other things.

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