February 1, 2023

Canazei, Italy Rescuers found body parts and equipment while searching Tuesday for missing hikers After a strong avalanche That killed at least seven people, and is blamed in large part on rising temperatures that have led to the melting of glaciers.

Officials initially feared 13 hikers were still missing, but Trento County on Tuesday reduced the number of missing people to five, after eight more checked in with authorities.

Rain hampered the search on Monday, but sunny weather on Tuesday allowed helicopters to bring more rescue teams to the site on the Marmolada glacier, east of Bolzano in the Dolomites, even as hopes dwindled of finding anyone alive.

Much of the glacier broke open on Sunday, triggering an avalanche that sent torrents of ice, rocks and debris down the mountainside on unsuspecting hikers below. Officials said at least seven people were killed.

Alex Baratin of the Alpine Rescue Service said: “We have to be clear, finding someone alive with this type of event is a very, very remote possibility, because the mechanical action of this type of avalanche has a very big impact on the life of the avalanche. People”. .

Hikers killed in glaciers in Italy
Rescuers prepare to conduct searches for avalanche victims in Punta Roca in Canazei, in the Italian Alps in northern Italy on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, two days after a large portion of the glacier broke up, leaving an avalanche, snow and rocks on hikers.

Luca Bruno/AFP

Nicola Casagli, a geologist and avalanche expert at the University of Florence, said the glacier’s impact on hikers was more than just an avalanche and would have taken them completely by surprise.

“These types of events, avalanches and avalanches, are impulsive, fast and unpredictable phenomena, they reach very high speeds and involve large masses,” he said. “And there’s no chance of getting to safety or realizing the problem in advance, because by the time you realize it, you’re already infected.”

Associated Press images, taken during a survey of the site by helicopter, showed a gaping hole in the glacier as if carved out of blue-gray ice by a giant ice cream scoop.

The terrain was still so unstable that rescue crews were standing to the side and using drones to try to find any survivors or signs of life while helicopters searched the skies, some using cellular sound detection equipment. Two lifeguards remained at the site overnight, and more rescuers joined them on Tuesday morning.

Maurizio Dilantonio, national head of the Alpine Rescue Service, said teams found body parts, hiking gear and clothing on the surface of the wreck, evidence of the avalanche’s powerful impact on hikers.

“We’ve recovered a lot of shrapnel over the past two days,” he said. “It’s very painful for those who pick it up. And then for those who have to analyze it.” “Personally, I can only believe that what we find on the surface will be the same as what we will find under it, when the ice melts or by digging, if there is a chance.”

Officials closed all access roads and chair lifts to the glacier for hikers, fearing continued instability and the possibility of more pieces of ice breaking off.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who visited the rescue base in Kanazei on Monday, admitted that avalanches are unpredictable, but the tragedy “certainly depends on the worsening climate situation.”

Italy is in the midst of an early summer heat wave, along with the worst drought in northern Italy in 70 years. Experts say there was unusually little snowfall during the winter, exposing glaciers in the Italian Alps to the summer heat and melting.

“We are therefore in the worst conditions for a separation of this kind, when there is a lot of heat and a lot of running water at the base,” said Renato Colucci of the Polar Sciences Institute of the state-run National Research Council. CNR. “We have not yet been able to understand if it was a deep or superficial break, but it does appear to be quite large, based on the initial images and information received.”

CNR has estimated that the Marmolada glacier could completely disappear in the next 25-30 years if current climate trends continue, given that it lost 30% of its volume and 22% of its area from 2004-2015.

What happened in Marmolada is unusual, Casagli said, but he said such devastating avalanches will become more frequent as global temperatures rise.

“The fact that this happens in a hot summer and abnormal temperatures should serve as a wake-up call to understand that these phenomena, while rare, are possible,” he told reporters. “If we do not take decisive action to counteract the effects of climate change, it will be more and more frequent.”

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