Hiking Gear and Body Parts Found on Italian Glacier After Avalanche

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On Tuesday, rescuers found hiking equipment and body parts while they searched for missing hikers, following a forceful avalanche that killed at least seven people and is being blamed as the cause of rising temperatures that are melting glaciers.

Initially, officials heard 13 hikers were still missing, but the province of Trento on Tuesday reduced the number of people unaccounted-for to five after eight others checked in with authorities.

On Monday, rain hindered the search, but sunny weather on Tuesday allowed helicopters to bring more rescue teams up to the site on the Marmolada glacier, east of Bolzano in the Dolomite mountains, even as hopes were dimmed of finding anyone alive.

A large chunk of the glacier cleaved off Sunday, sparking an avalanche that sent torrents of ice, rock, and debris plowing down the mountainside onto unsuspecting hikers below. Officials said that at least seven people were killed.

“We have to be clear, finding someone alive with this type of even is a very remote possibility, very remote, because the mechanical action of this type of avalanche has a very big impact on people,” said Alex Barattin of the Alpine Rescue Service. 

A geologist and avalanche expert at Florence University, Nicola Casagli, said the impact of the glacier collapse on the hikers was greater than a mere snow avalanche and would have taken them completely by surprise. 

“These types of events, which are ice and debris avalanches, are impulsive, rapid, unpredictable phenomena, reaching very high speeds and involving large masses,” he said. “And there is no chance of getting into safety or perceiving the problem in advance because, by the time you perceive it, you’ve already been hit.”

Photos taken by the Associated Press during a helicopter survey of the site, showed a gaping hole in the glacier as if carved out of the blue-gray ice by a giant scooper. 

Rescue crews stayed off to the side and used drones to try and find survivors or signs of life because the terrain was still so unstable. Some used equipment to detect cellular pings. Two rescuers remained on site overnight and were joined by more rescuers on Tuesday morning. 

“We have recovered so many fragments over the last two days. They are very painful for those who pick them up, and then those who have to analyze them,” he said. ‘Personally, I can only think that what we found on the surface will be the same that we will find underneath when the ice will melt or by digging if there is a chance,” said Maurizio Dellantonio, national president of Alpine Rescue Service.



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