Some went up, others went down. They were all on the Marmolada glacier, between the last refuge and the top, in a basin called Pian dei Fiacconi. Suddenly, around two in the afternoon, the scorching sun and a temperature out of the ordinary like a long time ago, a piece of the glacier breaks off from the top and turns into a great waterfall of ice and rock that sweeps away all. Technically a serac, i.e. a huge block that maybe stood there for centuries and fell and ended up in the valley collapsing in an unimpeded run.
Six people have died and at least 20 people are missing after the detachment of a part of the Marmolada glacier, in the Dolomites (Italian Alps) in an “unimaginable” tragedy for all.
The rescuers’ job was especially difficult, as they had to extract the bodies from the ice and rock on which they lay. A cell of psychologists was also activated to help the relatives of the victims.
According to sources from the Alpine Rescue team, which evacuated 18 people from the area and delimited the entire glacier area due to the risk of new landslides, at least 20 people are still missing, although checks are still being carried out to determine the exact number.
“There were unrecognizable people, disfigured, shattered bodies… the fallen mass is huge and has devastating effects,” said Alex Barattin, head of the Belluno Alpine Rescue who flew to the scene. The size of the detachment is exceptional: about 200 meters the front that descended for a kilometer and a half at about 300 per hour, expanding to 400 meters wide. All solid material, very little snow, consumed prematurely in this hot summer that sees the freezing point well above the 3,343 meters of Punta Penia, the Marmolada summit, the highest in the Dolomites.
The detachment occurred in the Punta Rocca area, along the ascent route of the normal route, and dragged two groups of mountaineers, Italians and foreigners, and their guides, although the nationality of the victims has not yet been communicated. .
During the afternoon, five helicopters with avalanche detection systems and canine units were used in search of the missing, in any case, they add, “it is unlikely that there will be survivors”, but the tasks will continue tomorrow.
In the area, a record temperature of 10.3 degrees was recorded, while the minimum remained above 5 degrees last night.
There were also eight injuries, one of them seriously, who were only saved because they were far from the area of the collapse, hit by the movement of air and some stones.
One of the members of the Salvamento Alpino Luigi Felicetti explained to the media: When we arrived we found ourselves in front of a terrible scenario. There were huge blocks of ice and rock everywhere, we started looking and found the first victims.” According to Felicetti, the mountaineers are not to blame because everyone “all had ropes and crampons and were very well equipped, they were so unlucky “.
“It is such a big carnage that it will be difficult for us to identify the victims, because the bodies have been dismembered,” the researchers admit, therefore, it is likely that DNA tests will be necessary.
The witnesses explained that first there was a deafening roar and then a kind of avalanche of snow, ice and rock that destroyed everything and they assure that nothing like this had ever happened in what they call “the queen of the Dolomites”.
As for the causes of the collapse, which will naturally be the subject of investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, the experts already point the finger at the climatic conditions. “The high temperatures can create small streams that will seep into the glacier, eroding its base and causing it to detach,” speculates Cristian Ferrari, president of the Glaciological Commission of Tridentine Mountaineers and a great connoisseur of Marmolada, where he had also climbed. last Saturday. “With global heat, the glaciers are getting thinner and when they fall, they collapse like skyscrapers,” Reinhold Messner added.
According to Renato Colucci, a glacier specialist quoted by the Italian agency AGI, the phenomenon “will be repeated” since “for weeks, the temperatures in the heights of the Alps have been well above the usual indicators.”
Images recorded from a shelter show how snow and rock begin to fall from the mountain. Other images show the avalanche dragging everything in its path.
According to a report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released on March 1, melting ice and snow is one of the top ten threats caused by global warming, which will disrupt ecosystems and threaten some infrastructure .
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