At least six people have died and eight were injured after a piece of glacier collapsed in the Italian Alps on Sunday, said Walter Milan, spokesman for Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps.
A deluge of snow, ice and boulders on the Marmolada mountain group, the highest in the Dolomites, engulfed a popular summit route, where a number of climbers had been rope-climbing, it was announced the emergency service of the Veneto region on Twitter.
The names and nationalities of the victims are not yet known, said Mr. Milan. Several helicopters were reportedly on site. Eighteen people were evacuated and emergency crews were checking parked cars to determine if anyone was still missing.
Mr Milan said it was the biggest such accident on the mountain in decades. High temperatures in recent days may have contributed by accelerating the melting of the ice, Milan said, adding that it was a very complex phenomenon with many factors at play.
In recent days, Milan said, the mountain had experienced record high temperatures. The accident came as a heatwave scorched parts of Europe for several weeks.
The effects of global warming on the Marmolada Glacier, known as the Queen of the Dolomites, have been manifesting for years, with the glacier shrinking at a rapid rate.
Between 2004 and 2015, the volume of the glacier decreased by 30%, according to a 2019 study by the Italian National Research Council and international universities. If the trend continues, the glacier will disappear within the next 25 to 30 years, according to research.
A few days before the accident, Carlo Budel, the guardian of a lodge at the top of the glacier, had posted a video of it on Facebook, saying that the glacier was in poor condition. “Poor Marmolada Glacier,” he wrote in the caption. “This year, this glacier is going to take such a hit.”