CANAZEI, Italy – Rescuers using drones resumed the search on Tuesday for around 13 hikers missing following an avalanche in northern Italy that killed at least seven people and is largely blamed on the rising temperatures that are melting glaciers.
After rain hampered searches on Monday, sunny weather on Tuesday allowed helicopters to bring more rescue teams to the site of the Marmolada Glacier, east of Bolzano in the Dolomites mountain range.
A huge chunk of the glacier split open on Sunday, triggering an avalanche that sent torrents of ice, rock and debris down the mountainside at unsuspecting hikers below. At least seven people were killed and about 13 remain missing, officials said.
The ground is still so unstable that rescue teams stayed to the side and used drones to try to find survivors while helicopters searched overhead, some using equipment to detect cell pings. Two lifeguards remained on site overnight and were joined by other lifeguards on Tuesday morning.
“We are continuing the work of the drones to find survivors, working in the areas that we could not monitor yesterday,” Matteo Gasperini, from the Alpine Rescue service, told Sky TG24. “We will try to complete the monitoring work of the whole site.”
Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who visited the Canazei rescue base on Monday, acknowledged that the avalanches are unpredictable but that the tragedy “definitely depends on the deterioration of the climatic situation”.
Italy is in the midst of an early summer heat wave associated with the worst drought in northern Italy in 70 years. Experts say there has been exceptionally little snow during the winter, exposing glaciers in the Italian Alps more to the heat and melting of summer.
“So we are in the worst conditions for a detachment of this kind, when there is so much heat and so much water flowing at the base,” said Renato Colucci of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Council of the research, or CNR. “We are not yet able to understand whether this was a deep or superficial detachment, but the size of it appears to be very large, judging from the preliminary images and information received.”
The CNR has estimated that the Marmolada glacier could disappear entirely in the next 25 to 30 years if current climate trends continue, given that it lost 30% of its volume and 22% of its surface area between 2004 and 2015. .