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Rain Hampers Search for Missing in Italian Glacier Avalanche | World News

France d’Emilio, by the Associated Press

ROME (AP) – A thunderstorm on Monday shattered a huge portion of an alpine glacier in Italy, sending snow, ice and rocks under the slope, hampering the search for more than a dozen hikers. Another body has been recovered, bringing the death toll to seven, according to Italian state TV.

Nine more were injured during a snowstorm from the Marmolada Glacier on Sunday afternoon when dozens of hikers were on a trip, some of them tying ropes together.

Trento prosecutor Sandro Raymondi said 17 hikers were initially thought to be missing, according to the Italian news agency Lapres. But later, RAI state TV reported from the scene that the number of unaccounted for had dropped to 15 after authorities were able to locate some of the missing.

At least four bodies brought to a makeshift morgue in an ice rink in Kanazai, a resort town in the Dolomite Mountains, were identified by Monday afternoon.

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RAI said three of the identities were Italians, including an experienced alpine guide who led a team of hikers. Another was a hiker whose relatives said he sent a selfie of himself off the slope shortly before the avalanche.

One of the dead was a Czech resident, the RAI said.

According to media reports, among those who are feared missing are three Italians, three Romanians, one Frenchman, one Austrian and four Czechs.

Luca Zaiya, the regional governor of Veneto, said some of the hikers in the area were gathered during the climb on Sunday.

Two of the injured were Germans, Raimondi was quoted as saying. Jaya told reporters that one of the Germans was a 65-year-old man. There have been so many serious injuries among the patients that it has not been possible to identify them so far.

Survivors at the hospital suffered chest and forehead injuries, Jaya said.

Drones are being used to locate the missing as well as to check security.

Sixteen vehicles remained unaccounted for in the area’s parking lot and authorities tried to track occupants through license plates. It is not clear how many vehicles were already identified victims or injured, all of whom were airlifted to hospital on Sunday.

Rescuers say the condition of the lower slope from the glacier, which has been melting for decades, was still too turbulent early Monday to send a team of people and dogs back to dig up tons of debris.

The thunderstorm forced Premier Mario Draghi’s helicopter to evacuate to the affected area. It was not clear when he and the head of the National Civil Protection Agency would arrive in Kanaze for a briefing.

What caused an avalanche to break and a thunderstorm on the slope, estimated by experts at speeds of about 300 kilometers (about 200 miles per hour), was not immediately known. But summer waves in Italy since May have brought unusually high temperatures in early summer, even in the generally cold Alps, citing it as a possible cause.

Jacopo Gabrielli, a polar science researcher at the state-run CNR Research Center in Italy, noted that the long heatwave, extending in May and June, was the warmest in northern Italy during that period for nearly 20 years.

“This is absolutely inconsistent,” Gabrielle said in an interview with Italian state TV on Monday. Like other experts, he said it was impossible to predict when a serac from a glacier overhang would break. It was Sunday.

On Sunday, Alpine rescuers noted that by the end of last week, the 3,300-meter (11,000-foot) high peak temperature had risen above 10C (50F), much higher than normal. Operators of rural shelters along the hill say temperatures at the 2,000-meter (6,600 ft) level have recently reached 24C (75 F), an unexpected heat in a place where travelers go to keep cool in the summer.

The Marmolada Range Glacier is the largest of the Dolomite Mountains in northeastern Italy. People ski in it in winter. But the glacier has been melting rapidly over the past few decades, much of its size has gone. Experts at Italy’s state-run CNR Research Center, which has a polar science institute, estimated a few years ago that the glacier would no longer exist in 25-30 years.

The Mediterranean basin, which includes southern European countries such as Italy, has been identified as a “hot spot for climate change” by UN experts, with heat waves and water shortages among other consequences.

Pope Francis, who prioritizes the care of the planet over his papacy, tweeted an invitation to pray for the victims of the snow and their families. “The tragedy we are facing with climate change will force us to urgently find new ways to respect individuals and nature,” Francis wrote.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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