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Parts of the body, tools found on the Italian glacier after the avalanche

The avalanche on the Italian glacier causes at least seven deaths. Video / @aametsoc

Rescuers found body parts and equipment while searching for missing hikers following a powerful avalanche that killed at least seven people and is largely attributed to rising temperatures melting glaciers.

Officials initially feared 13 hikers were still missing, but the province of Trento reduced the number of missing people to five after eight others approached authorities.

Rain hampered the search on Monday, but sunny weather on Tuesday allowed helicopters to bring more rescue teams to the site on the Marmolada glacier, east of Bolzano in the Dolomites, although hopes of finding someone alive dimmed.

A huge chunk of the glacier broke away on Sunday, setting off an avalanche that sent streams of ice, rock, and debris that poured down the mountainside onto unsuspecting hikers below. At least seven people were killed, officials said.

A rescue pilot assists the search for victims of the avalanche of the Punta Rocca glacier in Canazei, in the Italian Alps in northern Italy. Photo / Luca Bruno, AP
A rescue pilot assists the search for victims of the avalanche of the Punta Rocca glacier in Canazei, in the Italian Alps in northern Italy. Photo / Luca Bruno, AP

“We have to be clear, finding someone alive with this type of event is a very remote, very remote possibility, because the mechanical action of this type of avalanche has a very big impact on people,” said Alex Barattin of the Alpine Rescue.

Nicola Casagli, a geologist and avalanche expert at the University of Florence, said the impact of the collapse of the glacier on hikers was greater than a simple snow avalanche and would have taken them completely by surprise.

“These kinds of events, which are ice and debris avalanches, are impulsive, rapid and unpredictable phenomena, reaching very high speeds and involving large masses,” he said. “And there is no way to save yourself or to perceive the problem in advance, because by the time you perceive it, you have already been hit.”

Associated Press photos, taken during a helicopter survey of the site, showed a hole in the glacier as if it were carved out of the blue-gray ice by a giant ice cream collector.

A hollow in front of the Punta Rocca glacier near Canazei, in the Italian Alps. Photo / Luca Bruno, AP
A hollow in front of the Punta Rocca glacier near Canazei, in the Italian Alps. Photo / Luca Bruno, AP

The terrain was still so unstable that rescue teams stood to the side and used drones to try to find survivors or signs of life as the helicopters searched overhead, some using equipment to detect cell pings. Two rescuers remained on site overnight and were joined by other rescuers on Tuesday morning.

Maurizio Dellantonio, national president of Alpine Rescue, said the teams found body parts, trekking equipment and clothing on the surface of the debris, evidence of the avalanche’s powerful impact on hikers.

“In the last two days we have recovered so many fragments. They are very painful for those who collect them and then for those who have to analyze them,” he said. “Personally I can only think that what we have found on the surface will be the same as we will find below, when the ice melts or digging, if there is the possibility.”

Officials have closed all access routes and chairlifts to the glacier for hikers, fearing continued instability and the potential release of other blocks of ice.

Rescuers are preparing to embark for the recovery of the victims of the avalanche in Canazei, in the Italian Alps. Photo / Luca Bruno, AP
Rescuers are preparing to embark for the recovery of the victims of the avalanche in Canazei, in the Italian Alps. Photo / Luca Bruno, AP

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who visited the Canazei rescue base on Monday, acknowledged that avalanches are unpredictable, but that the tragedy “certainly depends on the worsening of the climatic situation”.

Italy is in the midst of an early summer heat wave, coupled with the worst drought in northern Italy in the past 70 years. Experts say snowfall was unusually low during the winter, exposing the glaciers of the Italian Alps more to summer heat and melting.

“We are therefore in the worst conditions for a detachment of this type, when a lot of heat and a lot of water flow at the base,” said Renato Colucci of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of the State, or CNR. “We are not yet able to understand if it was a deep or superficial detachment, but its size seems very large, judging from the preliminary images and the information received.”

The CNR has estimated that the Marmolada glacier could completely disappear in the next 25-30 years if the current climatic trends continue, given that it has lost 30 percent of its volume and 22 percent of its surface in the period 2004-2015. .

Casagli said what happened on the Marmolada is unusual, but said such destructive avalanches will become more frequent as global temperatures rise.

“The fact that it happened in a scorching summer with abnormal temperatures must be a wake-up call to understand that these phenomena, although rare, are possible,” he told reporters. “If we don’t take decisive measures to counter the effects of climate change, they will become more and more frequent.” – AP

Parts of the body, tools found on the Italian glacier after the avalanche

SourceParts of the body, tools found on the Italian glacier after the avalanche

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