Four dead after chunk of alpine glacier hits hikers

ROME — A large chunk of alpine glacier broke off Sunday afternoon and slid down mountainsides in Italy, sending ice, snow and rocks slamming into hikers on a popular summit trail and killing people at the summit. at least six people and injuring eight, authorities said.

It was not immediately possible to determine how many hikers were in the area or if any were missing, said Walter Milan, spokesman for the National Alpine Rescue Corps which provided the death and injury toll.

Rescuers were checking license plates in the parking lot as part of checks to determine how many people might be missing, a process that could take hours, Milan said by phone.

Nationalities or ages of the dead were not immediately available, Milan said. Of the eight survivors hospitalized, two were in serious condition, emergency dispatch services said.

Earlier, the National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps tweeted that the search for the affected area of ​​Marmolada Peak involved at least five helicopters and rescue dogs.

The SUEM expedition service, which is based in the nearby Veneto region, said 18 people who were above the area where the ice struck would be evacuated by the Alpine Rescue Corps.

But Milan said some on the slope may be able to descend on their own, including using the summit cable car.

SUEM said the avalanche consisted of a “snow, ice and rock dump”. The detached section is known as the serrac or ice pinnacle.

La Marmolada, rising to around 3,300 meters (about 11,000 feet), is the highest peak in the Eastern Dolomites, offering spectacular views of other Alpine peaks.

The Alpine Rescue Service said in a tweet that the segment came to an end near Punta Rocca (Rock Point), “along the route normally used to reach the summit”.

The cause of the ice section breaking off and falling down the slope of the peak was not immediately clear. But the intense heat wave that has hit Italy since late June could be a factor.

“The temperatures of those days clearly had an influence” on the partial collapse of the glacier, Maurizio Fugatti, the president of the province of Trento, which borders Marmolada, told Sky TG24 news.

But Milan pointed to the high heat, which soared unusually above 10 C (50 F) at the top of Marmolada in recent days, as just one possible factor in Sunday’s tragedy.

“There are so many factors that could be involved,” Milan said. Avalanches in general are unpredictable, he said, and the influence of heat on a glacier “is even more unpredictable.”

In separate comments on Italian public television, Milan called recent temperatures “extremely hot” for the peak. “Obviously, it’s something abnormal.”

The injured were airlifted to several hospitals in the Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto regions, according to the emergency services.

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