An avalanche triggered by the collapse of the largest glacier in the Italian Alps left at least six people dead and eight injured on Sunday, according to local rescue services.
Up to 15 people are currently lacking.
The glacier collapsed on the mountain of Marmolada, the highest in the italian dolomitesnear the hamlet of Punta Rocca, on the route normally taken to reach its summit.
Disaster struck a day after a record temperature of 10 degrees Celsius was recorded at the top of the glacier.
“An avalanche of snow, ice and rocks hit an access road while there were several roped parties, some of which were swept away,” rescue spokeswoman Michela Canova told AFP. .
Two of the injured were taken to hospital in Belluno, another in more serious condition was taken to Treviso and five to Trento.
“The total number of mountaineers involved is not yet known,” Canova said, without specifying the nationality of the victims.
Helicopters rushed in to assist in the rescue and monitor the situation from the air. Rescuers in the neighboring region of Veneto in northeastern Italy said they had deployed all their alpine teams, including sniffer dogs.
Further glacier collapses are to be feared
Footage filmed from a shelter near the incident shows snow and rocks rolling down the slopes of the mountain and causing a thunderous sound.
Other images shot by tourists on their mobile phones show the grayish avalanche sweeping away everything in its path.
The Mountain Rescue Team released footage showing rescuers and helicopters at the scene taking victims from the valley to the village of Canazei.
Their task was made more difficult as the bodies were trapped under a layer of ice and rock. A team of psychologists has been made available to support the relatives of the victims.
Experts quoted by the daily ‘Corriere della Sera’ said they feared new ice collapses.
Glacier specialist Renato Colucci told Italian agency AGI that the phenomenon was “doomed to repeat itself” because “for weeks the temperatures at altitude in the Alps have been well above normal values”.
Recent warm temperatures produced a large amount of water from melting glaciers that pooled at the bottom of the block of ice and caused it to collapse, he added.
The Marmolada glacier is the largest in the Dolomites mountain range, which is part of the Italian Alps and is located on the north face of the Marmolada.
The glacier, nicknamed “the queen of the Dolomites”, feeds the Avisio river and overlooks Lake Fedaia in the Italian autonomous province of Trento.
Melting ice and snow is a major threat worldwide
Ice acts as a protective blanket over the Earth and our oceans. The WWF explains that these glowing white dots reflect excess heat back into space and keep the planet cooler.
So, in theory, the Arctic stays colder than the equator because more of the sun’s heat is reflected off the ice, back into space.
About 10% of the Earth’s land area is covered in glacial ice. Almost 90 percent of that is in Antarcticawhile the remaining 10% are found in Greenland ice cap.
As land ice melts, sea levels will continue to rise.
According to a report published in March by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), melting ice and snow is one of the top 10 threats caused by global warming, which is disrupting ecosystems and infrastructure.
The IPCC has said that glaciers in Scandinavia, Central Europe and the Caucasus could lose between 60 and 80% of their mass by the end of the century.
The traditional way of life of people such as the Sami in Finland Lapland, which herds reindeer, has already been affected.
Thawing permafrost is also hampering economic activity in Canada and Russia.