Rescuers have found body parts searching for missing hikers after a powerful avalanche killed at least seven people in Italy.
Officials initially feared 13 hikers were still missing on the Marmolada glacier, east of Bolzano in the Dolomite mountains, but the province of Trento reduced the number to five after eight more registered with authorities.
Rain hampered search efforts on Mondaybut sunny weather on Tuesday allowed helicopters to ferry more rescue teams to the site – even as hopes of finding anyone alive grew dim.
A huge chunk of the glacier fell on Sunday, triggering an avalanche that sent a deluge of ice, rocks and debris tumbling down the mountainside onto unsuspecting hikers below.
Officials said at least seven people were killed.
“Let’s be clear, finding someone alive with this type of event is a very remote, very remote possibility, because the mechanical action of this type of avalanche has a very big impact on people,” Alex said. Barattin from the Alpine Rescue Service. .
Photos taken during a helicopter-borne survey of the site showed a gaping hole in the glacier.
The ground remains so unstable that rescue teams have stayed on the sidelines and used drones to find survivors or signs of life while helicopters scavenge, some using equipment to detect cellphone pings.
Two lifeguards remained at the site overnight, although they were joined by other lifeguards on Tuesday morning.
Maurizio Dellantonio, national president of the Alpine Rescue Service, said teams found body parts, hiking gear and clothing above the debris, evidence of the avalanche’s powerful impact.
“We have recovered so many fragments over the past two days. They are very painful for those who collect them. And then for those who have to analyze them,” he said.
“Personally, I can only assume that what we found on the surface will be the same as what we will find below, when the ice melts, or when digging, if there is a chance.”
Authorities have closed all access routes and chairlifts to the glacier for hikers for fear of continued instability and the possibility of more chunks of ice breaking off.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who visited the Canazei rescue base on Monday, acknowledged that the avalanches were predictable but that the tragedy “definitely depends on the deterioration of the climatic situation”.
Italy is currently experiencing a heat wave in early summer, as well as the worst drought in the north for 70 years. Experts said there was unusually low snowfall during the winter, exposing glaciers in the Italian Alps to summer heat and melt.
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