[VIDEOS] 17 Hikers Still Unaccounted for After Glacier Collapse Caused Avalanche Killing 7 in Italy

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Rescuers are using drones to search for up to 17 hikers who are still unaccounted for following an avalanche in northern Italy on Sunday. Drones are being used because the terrain is too unstable for rescue crews to clamber over to search for the missing hikers.

“We’re continuing the work of drones to find survivors, working the areas that we couldn’t monitor yesterday. We’ll try to complete the work of monitoring the entire site.”

– Matteo Gasperini, of the Alpine Rescue service, told Sky TG24

At least seven people are already known to have died in the tragedy and nine were injured.

Bad weather hampered the search yesterday, but better weather today allowed rescue teams access to the site on the Marmolada glacier, east of Bolzano in the Dolomites mountain range.

A massive chunk of the glacier broke off on Sunday, triggering an avalanche of ice, rock and debris down the mountainside onto hikers below.

Four of the seven deceased have been identified by rescuers. Three were Italian and two were mountain guides.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, said the incident was “without doubt” due to climate change. Italy is currently enduring an early summer heatwave, coupled with the worst drought in northern Italy in 70 years. The temperature at the glacier’s altitude last week exceeded 10ºC (50ºF) when usually it should still be around freezing.

Snowfall last winter was unusually low leaving the glaciers exposed to the summer sun and heat.

“We are thus in the worst conditions for a detachment of this kind, when there’s so much heat and so much water running at the base. We aren’t yet able to understand if it was a deep or superficial detachment, but the size of it seems very big, judging from the preliminary images and information received.”

– Renato Colucci from the Institute of Polar Sciences of the state-run Council for National Research (CNR)

The CNR estimates that the Marmolada glacier could disappear entirely in the next 25-30 years if current climatic trends continue. The glacier has already lost 30% of its volume and 22% of its area from 2004-2015.

The Marmolada glacier is located on 10,967′ Marmolada mountain in northern Italy.

Marmolada, Italy.

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