Italy’s biggest glacier collapses amid heat wave

Italy’s biggest glacier collapsed amid a severe heat wave with casualties | Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico – CNSAS/Disclosure

At least five people died and eight were injured after part of a glacier broke through in the Italian Alps on Sunday, an emergency services spokeswoman said. “Unfortunately, five people were found dead,” Michela Canova told AFP. The spokesperson also indicated that there were eight people injured, but that the balance “was still provisional”.

The glacier is part of the Marmolada mountain and is situated in the Dolomites mountain range. Two of the injured were transferred to Belluno hospital, one to Treviso and five to Trento, officials said, without providing further details on the victims’ nationality.

Several helicopters participate in rescue and surveillance operations. “An avalanche of snow, ice and rock hit the access road just as several groups of climbers were there, some of whom were swept away,” he explained. “The number of affected climbers is still unknown,” he added. La Marmolada is the largest glacier in the Dolomites, located in the East of the Alps.

The collapse of the glacier occurs following a exceptional heat wave that hit Italy and other European countries in the month of June. Temperatures exceeded 40ºC in much of Italy. Rome hit a high of 40.8C, the highest temperature ever recorded in the Eternal City, while several other Italian cities set monthly records. The heat follows one of the country’s worst droughts in decades with water rationing.

The record temperatures were generated by warm air rushing from the Sahara, moving across Europe and past the Arctic Circle. Several other countries, including those in Scandinavia, also experienced new monthly temperature records.

The heat wave is the latest in a series of extraordinary heat events this year and one of several plaguing the Northern Hemisphere today. Rising global temperatures have increased the frequency and intensity of heat extremes since the 1950s, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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