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  • The San Juan Daily Star

At least 7 die in glacier collapse in Italy’s Dolomites

Italian officials said that a partial glacier collapse in the Dolomites caused snow, ice and rock to overrun a popular summit route.

By Emma Bubola

At least seven people died, eight were injured and 14 were missing after a chunk of a glacier collapsed in the Dolomites in Italy on Sunday, according to Maurizio Fugatti, president of Trento province.

A deluge of snow, ice and rock on the Marmolada mountain group, the tallest in the Dolomites, overran a popular summit route, where a number of alpinists had been rope climbing, the emergency service for the Veneto region posted on Twitter.

Several helicopters were reportedly at the scene. Eighteen people were evacuated.

Walter Milan, a spokesman for Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps, said it was the biggest accident of its kind on the mountain in decades.

The Marmolada had experienced record temperatures in recent days, he said, amid a heat wave that has scorched parts of Europe for several weeks. The high temperatures could have contributed to the collapse by accelerating the melting of the ice, Milan said, adding that it was a very complex phenomenon with many factors at play.

At the news conference with Fugatti at a village at the foot of the mountain, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said while the event could be attributed to some unpredictable elements, “it certainly depends on the deterioration of the environment and the climate situation.” He added that the government must reflect on what happened and act so that it does not happen again.

The effects of global warming on the glacier on the Marmolada, known as the Queen of the Dolomites, have been unfolding for years, and it has been shrinking at a fast pace.

From 2004 to 2015 the volume of the glacier shrank by 30%, according to a 2019 study by Italy’s National Research Council and international universities. If the trend continues, the glacier will disappear in the next 25 to 30 years, the research predicted.

A few days before the accident, Carlo Budel, the keeper of a lodge on top of the glacier, posted a video of it on Facebook, saying the glacier was in bad condition. “Poor Marmolada glacier,” he wrote in the caption. “This year this glacier is going to get such a blow.”

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