The Dolomites: At least six dead and 20 missing due to the detachment of part of a glacier in the Italian Alps | International
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A detachment of part of a glacier in the Italian Alps has caused at least six deaths and eight injuries this Sunday. The high temperatures of recent days in northern Italy have caused the melting and avalanche of ice, rock and snow. “Unfortunately, six people were found dead,” said Michela Canova, spokeswoman for alpine relief in the Veneto region. The same sources have also indicated that there are eight more people injured, but that the final balance “was still provisional.” The figures could still increase because there are twenty missing. The detachment has occurred on the Marmolada glacier, in the Dolomites mountain range (located in the eastern Alps), where a record 10 degrees Celsius has been recorded in recent days at more than 3,300 meters of altitude.
Two of the injured have been transferred to the Belluno hospital, another to Treviso and five to Trento, the spokeswoman for the emergency services has indicated, without offering more details about the nationality of the victims. Several helicopters participate in the rescue and surveillance operations. The cause of the detachment, the same sources point out, is a consequence of the high temperatures recorded in recent weeks. “An avalanche of snow, ice and rock reached the access road at a time when several groups of climbers were there, some of whom were dragged,” said Canova. “The number of affected climbers is still unknown,” she added.
The situation has generated panic among hikers in the area. According to information from the rescue services, 18 people have been evacuated from the top of Punta Rocca and all those who were at the lowest point have returned to their place of origin. Reinhold Messner, the first mountaineer to conquer all eight thousand, attributed the misfortune to global warming. “The ice is getting thinner, and when it falls, chunks break off like skyscrapers,” he noted. “The landslides have always existed, but in the sixties the danger of it happening was much less. Unfortunately, the mountain also suffers from the pollution of the big cities”.
The Marmolada is the largest glacier in the Dolomites mountain chain and it is estimated that it will disappear in 25 or 30 years and even sooner if the temperature continues to rise, warned the National Research Council (CNR) of Italy. The glacier has lost 30% of its volume and 22% of its extension between 2004 and 2015, according to a study by the CNR Institute of Marine Sciences, in collaboration with several universities.
The situation of the Marmolada glacier is not unique in Italy. In September 2019, the front of the Planpincieux glacier began to slide, on the Mont Blanc peak in the Alps, putting the populations of the Courmayeur valley on alert. On September 25, 2019, Giuseppe Conte, then Italian Prime Minister, spoke at the UN Assembly about the glacier and called for mobilization. “The Aosta Valley is a laboratory for climate change”, launched the region’s president, Antonio Fosson, picking up the glove and inviting all the country’s authorities to visit it. The gesture, an attempt to raise awareness of the effects of climate change in the world week dedicated to the issue, pleased the scientific community. But there was no clear reaction from the international community.
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The scars on Mont Blanc and the surrounding mountain ranges are not new. The Planpincieux was attached to the Rochefort Glacier in the mid-19th century. The tongue of ice from both slopes went down together, but the increasing heat ended up dividing them. The scar is now evident. And if the average temperature increases, the glaciers will continue to retreat and form at higher levels, where the cold keeps them compact. Other specimens from the area, all larger, such as the Seracco Whymper or the Gran Croux, present similar situations.
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