One day after the glacier broke in northern Italy, the number of dead rose to seven. As the Italian authorities announced, 14 people were missing on Monday afternoon. Eight people were injured in the accident in the Dolomites on Sunday, including a 67-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman from Germany.
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The rescue work was temporarily interrupted on Monday due to an approaching storm. Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who wanted to visit the situation center in Canazei at the foot of the mountain by helicopter, could not land there and had to switch to Verona to switch to a car.
Meanwhile, emergency services continue to search for missing persons on the flank of Mount Marmolada. But they have little hope of finding any more survivors among the masses of ice, snow and rock. That said Walter Cainelli from the mountain rescue service in the northern Italian province of Trentino on Sunday evening. The honorary consul in Bolzano and the German embassy in Rome are in constant contact with the Italian authorities, it said.
A good dozen people were missing on Sunday evening, as reported by the Ansa news agency. 16 cars were counted in the parking lot at the foot of the mountain massif, from which the ascent paths start, whose owners have not yet been found.
“We do not yet know whether the cars belong to the dead or missing people or to people who have nothing to do with the accident,” said the regional president of Trentino-Alto Adige, Maurizio Fugatti. Up to 14 mountaineers were injured in the mountain disaster, one of them seriously. Nothing was initially known about the nationalities.
The search and rescue work on the Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Dolomites, was interrupted on Sunday evening because there was a risk that more blocks of ice could come off. The entire area around the glacier has been closed to the public.
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.”
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 in the evening and announced that he would be kept up to date by civil defense and regional politicians.
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”.