Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Searches continue for dozens of hikers in Italian glacier collapse, but rain hampers efforts

ROME ( Associated Press) – Thunderstorms on Monday hampered the search for more than a dozen hikers who remained inaccessible for a day after a large stretch of an Alpine glacier in Italy collapsed, causing an avalanche of ice, snow and had stones sent down the slope. Italy’s state television said another body had been recovered, raising the death toll to seven.

Nine others were injured when the avalanche was unleashed from the Marmolada Glacier on Sunday afternoon when dozens of hikers were on outings, some of them tied up with rope.

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Trento prosecutor Sandro Raimondi said 17 hikers were initially suspected to be missing, Italian news agency LaPresse reported. But later, RAI state TV reported from the scene that the number of unexplained dropped to 15 after authorities were able to track down some of those feared missing.

The free-standing ice block was massive, estimated at 200 meters (yards) wide, 80 meters high and 60 meters deep. Governor Luca Zaia, whose Veneto region in northeastern Italy borders the Marmolada area, likened the avalanche to an “” apartment building (size) block of ice with debris and Cyclopsian masses of rock. “

“I can say nothing but the facts, and the facts tell us that the high temperatures do not benefit these situations,” Zaia told reporters.

Italy is in the grip of a week-long heat wave, and Alpine rescue workers said the temperature at the glacier’s height was above 10 C (50F) last week, while it should usually hover around freezing this time of year.

An ice rink in the Dolomite mountain resort, Canazei, served as a temporary morgue to identify the dead, a task that was made more challenging and gruesome because rescuers said body parts were found scattered over a wide area in some cases. .

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At least four bodies brought to the rink were identified Monday afternoon.

RAI said three of those identified were Italians, including an experienced Alpine guide who led a group of hikers. Another was a hiker whose family says he had just sent a selfie of himself off the slope shortly before the avalanche ended.

One of the dead was from the Czech Republic, RAI said.

According to media reports, those feared missing in some Italians include three Romanians, one with French nationality, another from Austria, and four from the Czech Republic.

Some of those who walked in the area on Sunday were tied up with rope while climbing.

Raimondi said two of the injured are Germans. Zaia told reporters that one of the Germans was a 65-year-old man. Some of the patients were so badly injured, so far identification has been impossible.

The hospital survivors sustained chest and skull injuries, Zaia said.

Drones were used to help search for any of the missing and to verify safety.

Sixteen cars remained unclaimed in the area’s parking lot, and authorities tried to locate occupants through number plates. It was unclear how many of the cars possibly belonged to the already identified victims or to the injured, who were all flown to hospitals by helicopter on Sunday.

The thunderstorm forced the helicopter that flew Premier Mario Draghi to the affected area to be diverted.

What caused a peak of the glacier to break down and thunder down the slope at a speed estimated by experts at about 300 km / h (almost 200 km / h) was not immediately known.

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But high temperatures have been widely cited as a likely factor.

Jacopo Gabrieli, a polar science researcher at Italy’s state-run CNR research center, noted that the long heat wave, which spans May and June, was the hottest in northern Italy in that period for nearly 20 years.

“This is absolutely 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 peak of a glacier’s overhang – could break down, such as Sunday.

Operators of rustic shelters along the mountainside said temperatures at the 2,000-meter (6,600-foot) level recently reached 24C (75 F) – unheard of in a place where tourists go in the summer to stay cool.

The glacier, in the Marmolada range, is the largest in the Dolomite Mountains in northeastern Italy. People ski on it in the winter. But the glacier has melted away rapidly over the past decades, with much of its volume gone. Experts at Italy’s state-run CNR research center, which has a polar science institute, estimated a few years ago that the glacier would disappear within 25-30 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 is likely to suffer from heat waves and water shortages, among others.

Pope Francis, who has made the care of the planet a priority of his papacy, tweeted an invitation to pray for the avalanche victims and their families. “The tragedies we are experiencing with climate change must push us to urgently look for new ways that respect people and nature,” Francis wrote.

Nation World News Desk
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