Canazei, Italy (AFP) – Conditions in the Italian Alps were very unstable on Wednesday for search teams and dogs to work on the mountain where five people were still missing after a deadly avalanche at the weekend, authorities said.
Seven people were killed after a huge block of glacier exploded on Sunday, sending an avalanche of ice and rocks across a driveway where trekkers were enjoying the warm, sunny weather..
Rescuers said they hope the temperature will drop Thursday, reducing the risk of more avalanches, so that researchers can go to the slope of the Marmolada.
Relatives of missing Italians lobbied for the recovery of the bodies of their loved ones, believed to have been buried under the avalanche. The size of a detached glacier top was compared to an apartment building.
Trento’s public prosecutor, Sandro Raimondi, said in an interview on Wednesday via Italian state radio that he had opened an official investigation to determine whether there was any negligence. Public Prosecution plans to consult geologists.
But Raimondi said it appears at this point that the avalanche was unexpected.
“The unpredictability of this moment is the main protagonist,” he said.
Forensic police investigators from Parma took samples on Wednesday from some of the exhumed remains To try to determine if they belong to any missing persons.
Meanwhile, the mayors of Kanazei and smaller towns at the base of the mountains in the Dolomites have issued edicts to close the Marmolada Peak to hikers. Some people ignored orders and rushed up the lower slopes.
Authorities cited a weeks-long heatwave in northern Italy and a scant winter snowfall as possible factors in the weekend from the disintegration of the glacier, which has shrunk dramatically over the decades.
Last weekend, authorities said, the temperature in Marmolada exceeded 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit), which is unusually high in early summer.
Polar science experts at an Italian government-run research center have estimated that the Marmolada glacier could completely disappear within the next 25-30 years if current climate trends continue.
Between 2004 and 2015, the glacier lost 30% of its volume and 22% of its area.
People whose livelihoods are intertwined with the mountain made their own observations. Carlo Budl, manager of an alpine hut on the side of the Marmolada, stated that the glacier was not covered in snow last month.
“Last year, when I moved into the hut on June 1, it only took me half a day to get in because the hut was completely covered in snow,” he said. “But this year, I opened the main door in just 30 minutes.”
Andrea Rosa and Paolo Santalucia contributed to this report.
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