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On Saturday rescue crews in northern Italy recovered the eleventh body following last Sunday’s deadly avalanche triggered by the collapse of a melting glacier. The female hiker is the last of eleven people reported missing following the avalanche.
Rescuers used dogs and drones to search for the missing hikers. Drones are being used because the melting terrain is too unstable for rescue crews to clamber over and search.
“We have identified all the victims. We’ve reached a toll of 11. As of today, we have no indications to make us think more people could be involved.”
– police colonel Giampietro Lago
Nine people were also injured in the tragedy. Crews found body parts at the scene, evidence of the insane impact of the avalanche on the hikers.
Bad weather originally hampered the search, but better weather since 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.
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.