75 residents and tourists were evacuated from a ski resort in Italy Wednesday over fears a massive portion of a Mont Blanc glacier could collapse and slide into the town.
The 500,000-cubic-meters of ice is hanging precariously from the Planpincieux glacier within the Mont Blanc massif and recent high-temperatures have increased the risk that it could break off. If that happened, the ice, like a football field with 80-meters of ice on it, would slide down the mountainside like an avalanche and engulf Courmayeur within a couple of minutes.
“With our monitoring systems and photographic comparisons we have identified a sector of the glacier that is giving way, at a not exaggerated speed.”
– Mayor Stefano Miserocchi
Last September Italian authorities closed roads and evacuated mountain huts after experts warned that part of the glacier could collapse. About 250,000-cubic-meters of ice were in danger of breaking away from the Planpincieux glacier.
Courmayeur is cited as Italy’s best all-round ski resort.
Courmayeur Mayor Stefano Miserocchi signed an order closing roads in the Val Ferret on the Italian side of Mont Blanc after experts warned that a section of the glacier was sliding at speeds 16-23″ per day. He reassured that there was no threat to residential areas or tourist facilities but mountain huts in the Rochefort area were being evacuated as a precaution.
“These phenomena once again show how the mountain is going through a period of major change due to climate factors and, therefore, it is particularly vulnerable,” Mr. Miserocchi told Italian media.
The Planpincieux glacier has been closely monitored since 2013 in an attempt to establish the frequency with which ice is melting. But authorities warn that there is no “alert system” in place as experts say it is impossible to predict exactly when the mass of ice would collapse.
Rising global temperatures are causing the melting of mountain glaciers and the retreat of polar ice sheets. Last year dozens of people took part in a “funeral march” to commemorate the loss of the Pizol glacier in Switzerland, and a similar ceremony happened in Iceland in memory of a glacier they lost.