On Monday, helicopters and drones flew over the Italian Alps to search for 14 missing people after part of a mountain glacier collapsed. Caused by rising temperatures, the glacier collapse has resulted in the death of seven persons.
Most of Italy is experiencing an early-summer heatwave with scientists claiming that climate change was making previously stable glaciers difficult to predict.
The avalanche on Sunday took place at Marmolada. The mountain is more than 3,300 metres tall and is the highest in all of the Dolomites. The Dolomites is a mountain range in the eastern Italian Alps comprising the regions of Trento and Veneto.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi blamed the disaster on environmental factors. “Today Italy weeps for these victims,” Draghi said during a visit to meet rescue teams. “But the government must think about what has happened and take steps to ensure that what happened is unlikely to do so again or can even be avoided,” he added.
Maurizio Fugatti, president of the Trento region summarised that seven people were killed and two of the eight injured were in a serious condition. Three Czechs and an Austrian were among the 14-missing people.
“This is the first such accident in the history of the mountain,” said Gino Comelli, who is coordinating rescue efforts. The peak was too unstable for rescuers to try to approach on foot, Comelli said, adding that recent hot weather had been a factor in the collapse, a News 18 report quoted him as saying.
Pope Francis said he was saddened by the tragedy and was praying for the victims and their families. “The tragedies that we are experiencing with climate change should force us urgently to pursue new ways that respect people and nature,” said the Pope.
“The Marmolada glacier collapse is a natural disaster linked directly to climate change,” said Poul Christoffersen, a professor in glaciology at the University of Cambridge. “High elevation glaciers such as the Marmolada are often steep and relying on cold temperatures below zero degrees Celsius to keep them stable,” he added.