ROME — A large chunk of Alpine glacier broke loose Sunday afternoon and slid down a mountainside, slamming into more than a dozen hikers on a popular trail on the peak. At least four people were killed, Italy’s state television said, and seven others were injured.
RAI state television didn’t cite a source for its report of fatalities. However, the National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps previously tweeted that at least five rescue dogs and helicopters were involved in searching the Marmolada peak. A separate tweet was sent by emergency dispatchers in northern Italy indicating that around 15 hikers had been reported to be in the area.
This is also known as the serac (or pinnacle) of a glacier.
Marmolada is the eastern Dolomites’ highest peak, at 3300m (about 11,000ft).
“A breaking away of rock provoked the opening of a crevasse on the glacier, leaving about 15 people involved,” the emergency dispatchers tweeted.
The Alpine rescue service said in a tweet that the segment broke off near Punta Rocca (Rock Point), “along the itinerary normally used to reach the peak.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the section of ice to break away and rush down the peak’s slope, but the intense heat wave gripping Italy since late June could be a factor, Walter Milan, an Alpine rescue service spokesperson told RAI state TV.
“The heat is unusual,” Milan said, noting that temperatures in recent days on the peak had topped 10 C (50 F). ”That’s extreme heat” for the peak, Milan said. “Clearly it’s something abnormal.”
According to rescue agencies, the injured including one in critical condition were taken to various hospitals in Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto.
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