Italian Alps glacier collapse: Six killed as heatwave causes avalanche

·2 min read
The avalanche happened in the Italian Dolomites
The avalanche happened in the Italian Dolomites

At least six people were killed and eight wounded on Sunday when a large block of ice broke off a mountain in northeastern Italy amid a record-breaking heatwave.

The mass of ice came loose, causing a deadly avalanche, from the Marmolada mountain, the highest in the Italian Dolomites, at around 1pm on Sunday, according to the guard who sounded the alarm.

The Alpine rescue service said in a tweet that the segment broke off near Punta Rocca, or Rock Point, “along the itinerary normally used to reach the peak”.

Six bodies have so far been removed but have yet to be transported to the valley.

Rescue teams were alerted and at least five helicopters from the Veneto and Trentino regions as well as dog units were deployed to the mountain, Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported.

Two of the injured were taken to hospital in Belluno, another in a more serious condition was taken to Treviso and five to Trento, emergency services spokeswoman Michela Canova said.

She did not specify the nationalities of the victims.

Footage shared on social media shows the moment the wave of ice cascaded downhill, barely missing a couple of hikers.

Maurizio Fugatti, the president of the autonomous Trento region, visited the Canazei Alpine resort where an operations headquarters has been set up by the rescue teams.

At 3,343 metres Marmolada is the highest part of the Dolomites mountain range. The glacier feeds the Avisio river and overlooks Lake Fedaia.

On Saturday, peak temperatures were recorded when the mountain summit reached 10 degrees Celsius. “That's extreme heat” for the peak, Walter Milan, an Alpine rescue service spokesperson, told RAI state TV. “Clearly it's something abnormal.”

The incident follows an unseasonably hot couple of months, with record temperatures for the month of June. Some parts of Italy surpassed 40 degrees while 12 major cities were put on red alert last week due to the heatwave.

Italy has also suffered the worst drought in seven decades, causing immense damage to farmers and forcing local authorities to ration water supply in towns and cities along the northern Po valley.