The Marmolada avalanche which killed at least seven people, with 14 still missing, is the result of a glacier collapse. Italian PM Mario Draghi says the disaster was linked to environmental factors.
At least seven people died after being caught in an avalanche sparked by the collapse of a glacier in the northern Italian Alps.
A further eight were injured in the collapse, with two people suffering serious injury, emergency officials stated. Rescue teams with helicopters and drones halted their search for 14 still missing due to bad weather.
“Without doubt” linked to climate change
On a visit to the region, Italy’s PM Mario Draghi, said the incident was “without doubt” linked to climate change.
“Today Italy weeps for these victims. But the government must think about what has happened and take steps to ensure that what happened is unlikely to do so again or can even be avoided,” Draghi said.
Video of the incident showed an ice mass collapsing down the slopes of Marmolada, the area’s highest mountain.
“An avalanche of snow, ice and rock which in its path hit the access road when there were several roped parties, some of which were swept away,” emergency services spokeswoman Michela Canova said. “The definitive number of mountaineers involved is not yet known,” she added.
It isn’t immediately clear what caused the section of the glacier to collapse. However, a rescue service spokesperson, Walter Milan, told state TV the area has been experiencing unusually high temperatures in recent days.
“The heat is unusual,” Mr Milan said. He noted temperatures have reached 10C at the glacier’s peak in recent days. “That’s extreme heat,” he said. “Clearly it’s something abnormal.”
Hikers and climbers killed
Seven people were killed and two of the eight people injured were in a serious condition, said Maurizio Fugatti, president of the Trento region. Four of the seven killed have been identified by rescuers, three of them Italian, including two mountain guides. The injured were taken to a number of hospitals around the area.
The Italian prime minister said climate change bears some responsibility for the glacier collapse.
“This is a tragedy that certainly had an element of the unpredictable but is also without doubt linked to the deterioration of the environment and the climate situation,” Mr Draghi said.
On a visit to the region, he also said the government would take measures to prevent another similar tragedy happening.
Pope Francis said he was praying for the victims and their families.
“The tragedies that we are experiencing with climate change should force us urgently to pursue new ways that respect people and nature,” he said on Twitter.