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A large stretch of Alpine glacier broke loose Sunday afternoon and slid down a mountainside, bumping into more than a dozen hikers on a popular trail at the summit. At least four people were killed and seven others were injured, according to Italian state television.
RAI state television has not named a source for the report of fatalities. But earlier, the National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps tweeted that the search of the affected area of the Marmolada peak involved at least five helicopters and rescue dogs. Separately, emergency services in northeastern Italy tweeted that about 15 hikers would have been in the affected area.
An ice serac has collapsed on #Marmolada: the detachment at Punta Rocca, along the climbing route of the normal route to reach the summit. All stations of the #SoccorsoApino in the area, minimum 5 helicopters and dog units.
– National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps (@cnsas_official) July 3, 2022
The segment that broke loose is known as a serac or the pinnacle of a glacier. Marmolada, with an elevation of about 3,300 meters (about 11,000 feet), is the highest peak in the Eastern Dolomites.
“A rock breaking away caused the opening of a crevasse, involving about 15 people,” the emergency services tweeted.
The Alpine 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 patch of ice to break away and descend the slope of the peak, but the intense heat wave that has gripped Italy since late June could be a factor, Walter Milan, a spokesman for the Alpine rescue service, said. to the RAI state television.
“The heat is unusual,” Milan said, noting that temperatures had surpassed 10 C (50 F) at the peak for the past few days. “That’s extreme heat” for the peak, Milan said. “Clearly something abnormal.”
The injured, including one in critical condition, have been taken to several hospitals in the Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto regions, according to rescue services.