The number of confirmed fatalities after the glacier collapsed in the northern Italian Dolomites has risen to ten. The emergency services recovered another body, said the President of the Autonomous Province of Trento, Maurizio Fugatti, to journalists in Canazei on Thursday evening.
The identity of six dead has been clarified. There are two people from the Czech Republic and four from Italy. Five Italians are still considered missing. Carabinieri specialists should now determine whether they are among the bodies already found and clarify the identity of the other victims.
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Due to their instability, the rescue work on the ground was sometimes not possible. For safety reasons and while the work was being carried out, the municipality blocked access to the mountain and promised penalties if hikers did not follow the rules.
On Thursday, the salvage work continued on the ground. A Swiss company installed two surveillance systems. One is a Doppler radar that can register a moving mass, as Sales Manager Susanne Wahlen explained to the German Press Agency. The second radar system scans the surface and measures millimeter changes.
The mountain rescuers fear that it could take weeks or even longer before all the dead are located and recovered from the ice and boulder masses. The avalanche, which hit a number of alpinists on Sunday afternoon, has meanwhile settled and become very severe.
You can only dig with technical equipment, which under these circumstances cannot be brought to the spot, said mountain rescue chief Maurizio Dellantonio. The Ansa news agency quoted investigators as saying that an “unimaginable bloodbath” took place on the mountain, after which “it will be difficult to determine the identity of the victims because the bodies were dismembered” by the chunks of ice and stone.
A number of cell phone videos showed how the avalanche fell over the rock faces of the massif in Tal. She also plowed down one of the main access routes to the 3,343-meter mountain, which featured several rope teams. At least two were hit.
A spokesman for the Italian mountain rescue service told the German Press Agency that it was initially unclear whether there were individual mountaineers at the scene of the accident in addition to the rope teams. All mountain rescuers in the area from the Veneto and Trentino-South Tyrol regions were alerted. They flew five helicopters up the mountain and recovered the dead and injured. Some dog teams were used to search for other victims.
Carlo Budel, the host of the Capanna Punta Penia refuge, spoke in an Instagram video of the “worst possible time and day that the chunk could come loose”.
Shortly after midday, countless mountaineers were out and about on the popular massif on a summery Sunday. Budel asked all alpinists not to come to the Marmolada until further notice. “Stay as far away from this glacier as possible,” warned the innkeeper.
“We heard a loud noise, typical of a landslide,” said an eyewitness to the Ansa news agency. “After that, we saw an avalanche of snow and ice fall towards the valley at high speed and we knew something bad had happened.”
Mountain rescuer Luigi Felicetti reported: “When we arrived on site, we were presented with an incredible picture. There were blocks of ice and huge stones everywhere. We then started looking for the people.”
Prime Minister Mario Draghi expressed his condolences to the victims and their families during a visit to the scene of the accident on Monday evening and announced that he would be kept up to date by civil defense and regional politicians.
On Thursday, the number two in the Italian state, Senate President Maria Elisabetta Casellati, came to the site to express her condolences. “We have to be clear about the fact that we have an epochal change with climate change,” said the politician from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. The glaciers are melting significantly and therefore a change in policy is necessary.
Extreme mountaineer and environmentalist Reinhold Messner sees the accident as a consequence of climate change and global warming. “These eat away at the glaciers,” said the 77-year-old in an interview with the German Press Agency.
So-called ice towers – called seracs – then form on the edges of the glacier, “which can be as big as skyscrapers or rows of houses,” explained Messner. Incidents like those on the Marmolada “we will see more often”, he predicted, because “today there are many more rock and ice falls than in the past”.
And these can then have terrible consequences, like on Sunday on the massif on the border between the Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto regions. The visibly shocked mountain rescuer Luigi Felicetti reported on the mission: “When we arrived on site, we were presented with an unbelievable picture. There were blocks of ice and huge stones everywhere.”
There was initially no official information on the cause of the accident – however, everything indicates that the high temperatures of the past few days, weeks and months are likely to play a role. According to media reports, a record value of ten degrees was measured on the summit of the mountain on Saturday.
“I’ve never seen anything like it on the Marmolada. It wasn’t a normal avalanche like in winter,” said a mountain rescuer. He compared the accident to a building and spoke of a “structural failure”.