Marmolada avalanche kills at least 6 amid heat wave in Dolomites

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At least six people are dead and eight others injured after an ice avalanche in the Italian Alps on Sunday, local officials said, as rescue workers combed Mount Marmolada for at least 19 hikers missing.

Italy’s National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps said Five helicopters and dog units had been deployed to the area, although it raised concerns more snow, ice and rocks could fall.

The local news agency ANSA announced on Monday that eleven Italians, four Czechs, three Romanians and one French were among the missing.

The landslide occurred during an early heat wave that has seen temperatures soar to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit on the Marmolada in recent days. Rescuers said the heat was “abnormal,” the Guardian newspaper reported.

Experts have long warned that avalanches will become more frequent as global temperatures rise, saying warming can destabilize mountain climates and accelerate melting of glaciers.

“Fortunately, weather conditions are good, but there is a risk that more collapses could occur,” a spokesman told Reuters after Italian state television reported that rescuers saw dead bodies next to “enormous chunks of ice”.

The glacier collapse happened near Punta Roccaa route climbers use to reach the summit, Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia said as an alpine rescue unit divided an emergency number that people could call if their loved ones hadn’t returned from trips to the area.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi offered Condolences and thanks to the emergency services. Officials estimated on Monday that up to 16 people could have been swept away in the collapse.

Rising to about 11,000 feet, the Marmolada is the highest peak in the eastern Dolomites — a UNESCO World Heritage Site estimated to be more than 200 million years old. The Marmolada is called the “Queen of the Dolomites”, an area popular with nature and adventure lovers.

A report this year by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines the devastating effects of climate change, including the irreversible loss of glaciers by the end of this century.

“Mountain regions have always been affected by either too much or too little water,” says the report. “Due to climate change, the hazards are changing rapidly and becoming even more unpredictable.”

“Future warming is expected to further amplify rain-on-snow events … affecting hydropower and leading to river flooding, avalanches and landslides,” the document said, adding that climate change is affecting snow, ice and permafrost to melt and shrink.

Mountain glaciers may have less ice than estimated, straining freshwater supplies

The increased risk of such dangers is forcing populations in mountainous regions to relocate, leading to mass displacement in countries such as Thailand, Afghanistan and Peru.

Italian officials said the injured were being treated at hospitals in the cities of Belluno, Treviso, Trento and Bolzano, Reuters reported.

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