Six People Die After Collapse of Italian Glacier

The accident happened in the Dolomites in northern Italy.  The collapse triggered an avalanche of rocks, snow and ice that hit a number of hikers. Eight other people were injured, two are reported to be in a serious condition. It’s feared the death toll could rise as the search operation resumes. UPDATED


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Sunday 3rd July:

The ice mass collapsed on the slopes of Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites in the east of the Alps.

It is unclear what caused the collapse but there have been high summer temperatures that have likely made the ice unstable.

Temperatures on the Marmolada reached 10 degrees celsius (50 fahrenheit) at the weekend.

The glacier has been in retreat over recent years and it was a fraction of its former size.

Dozens of people out hiking in the area were hit by the debris.

“Unfortunately, five people were found lifeless,” emergency services spokeswoman Michela Canova told the AFP news agency.

She added that the number of injured people “remains a provisional count.”

“An avalanche of snow, ice and rock which in its path hit the access road when there were several roped parties, some of which were swept away.

“The definitive number of mountaineers involved is not yet known,” she added.

One report says 19 people are still missing.

Marmolada ice collapse. Image c/o Alpine rescue services.

Marmolada ice collapse. Image c/o Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico.

The ice collapsed close to Punta Rocca on the route often used by hikers and climbers to reach the summit.

“Fortunately the weather conditions are good but the danger is that there could be further collapses,” said a spokesperson from the Alpine Rescue Unit.

Video posted on social media shows the avalanche:

Five helicopters and dozens of emergency workers were involved in the search and rescue operation.

Marmolada ice collapse. Image c/o Alpine rescue services.

Marmolada ice collapse. Image c/o Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico

Marmolada is 3,343m high and lies between the borders of Trentino and Veneto.

The injured are being treated in hospitals in the nearby towns of Belluno, Treviso, Trento and Bolzano.

It is not certain how many people were in the area at the time.

The authorities are checking number plates in the local car parks to ascertain how many people might be missing.

The names, nationalities and ages of the dead have not been released.

As temperatures rise and glaciers become unstable experts are becoming increasingly concerned that these sort of incidents will become more prevalent – Glacier collapse on Mt Blanc threatens

The climate of the Alps is changing rapidly and temperatures have increased by around 2C – twice the global average.

Catastrophic glacier collapses are becoming more frequent, says Paul Christoffersen, a professor of glaciology at the University of Cambridge.

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

A study by Swiss scientists found that Alpine glaciers could shrink by up to 90% this century.

The alpine glaciers are estimated to have lost half their volume since 1850, with the loss rates accelerating sharply since the late 1980s.

The glaciers in Europe are now shrinking at an increasingly alarming rate as rising temperatures take their toll and this makes them increasingly unstable.

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI

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Main image c/o Alpine Rescue Services, Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico.