Italy glacier collapse: The struggle to find the five missing climbers

Emergency services at the scene of a deadly avalanche in the Italian Dolomites recovered what body parts they could on Tuesday, with the dangers of venturing under the partially collapsed glacier slowing the search.

Italy glacier collapse: The struggle to find the five missing climbers
A "Guardia di Finanzia" helicopter flies above the Marmolada glacier, near Canazei on July 4, 2022, one day after an ice serac collapsed, killing seven people. (Photo by Pierre TEYSSOT / AFP)

Rescue teams sent helicopters and drones up for a second day after Sunday’s disaster, which saw at least seven hikers killed when a section of the country’s largest Alpine glacier gave way, sending ice and rock hurtling down the mountain.

Italy has blamed the collapse on climate change and fears more of the glacier could come crashing down have prevented access to much of the area where hikers, some roped together, are believed to be buried.

Authorities had declared 14 people missing but revised that number down to five on Tuesday, after managing to trace some of those unaccounted for.

“Operations on the ground will only be carried out to recover any remains discovered by the drones, to ensure rescuers’ safety,” the Trentino Alpine Rescue Service said Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Italian rescuers: ‘Slim’ chance of finding more survivors after glacier collapse

Experts were surveying the area to determine how best to enable teams with sniffer dogs to get out onto the site safely on Wednesday or Thursday, the Service’s national chief Maurizio Dellantonio told AGI news agency.

Relatives of people reported missing gathered at the town of Canazei, where recovered remains were placed in a make-shift morgue at a gymnasium.

“The important finds, not just bones, are first photographed, then recovered and put onto a helicopter” and flown to Canazei to be “catalogued and placed in cold storage”, Dellantonio said.

Last selfie

The disaster struck one day after a record-high temperature of 10C (50F) was recorded at the summit of Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Italian Dolomites.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Monday the collapse was certainly “linked to the deterioration of the environment and the climate situation”.

One of the bodies recovered belonged to a Czech who was travelling with a friend now registered as missing, the Czech foreign ministry told AFP.

Also missing, according to Italian media reports, was Filippo Bari, 27, who had snapped a grinning selfie of himself on the mountain earlier Sunday and sent it to family and friends saying “look where I am!”

Bari, who has a four-year old son, has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him, nor have the five friends he was believed to be hiking with, the Corriere della Sera said.

Helicopter pilot Fausto Zambelli told journalists some belongings had been spotted from the air, but it was not yet clear “if that means there are victims there, or if they belong to old hiking expeditions”.

He said hope of finding survivors under the ice was slim, but not entirely gone.

“If there are ‘pockets’ (of air), there’s still hope. Time is obviously short, but we still hope to find someone alive”.

The Trento public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation to determine the causes of the tragedy.

The glacier, nicknamed “queen of the Dolomites”, feeds the Avisio river and overlooks Lake Fedaia in the autonomous Italian province of Trento.

According to a March report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), melting ice and snow is one of 10 major threats caused by global warming, disrupting ecosystems and infrastructure.

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Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy’s River Po

Historically low water levels in northern Italy's River Po exposed an unexploded WWII-era bomb over the weekend.

Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy's River Po

Bomb disposal experts from the Italian military were called on to safely detonate the 450kg bomb, which they achieved via a controlled explosion on Sunday.

Around 3,000 residents from the nearby village of Borgo Virgilio near Mantua in northern Italy were evacuated as a safety precaution, according to army officials.

“At first, some of the inhabitants said they would not move, but in the last few days, we think we have persuaded everyone,” the village’s mayor Francesco Aporti told Reuters.

READ ALSO: Venice shuts down for WWII-era bomb removal

The bomb, which reportedly contained 240kg of explosives, was transferred to a quarry approximately 30km away from where it was discovered before being blown up.

The device came to light after a months-long drought – described as Italy’s worst in 70 years – caused parts of the River Po to dry up, leaving its riverbed exposed for the first time in decades.

Italy, along with much of continental Europe, has suffered from a series of extreme heatwaves over the summer, causing devastation to its agricultural sector and a sharp increase in wildfires.

The approximately four thousand risotto rice paddies in the Po Valley around the River Po have been particularly hard hit, with farmers forced to abandon some fields altogether try to rescue others.

READ ALSO: Italy’s risotto rice fields decimated by worst drought in decades

“The situation is desperate, not to say apocalyptic,” one rice farmer told AFP news agency in late July.

Italy supplies more than half of the European Union’s rice, most of which is grown in the Po Valley in a 220,000-hectare area stretching west from Pavia in Lombardy to Vercelli and Novara in Piedmont.