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Drones spot two more bodies from Italy avalanche, taking death toll to nine

The size of the glacier’s detached pinnacle has been compared to an apartment building.

An aerial view of the missing part of a glacier that collapsed triggering an avalanche on the Marmolada Mountain.
An aerial view of the missing part of a glacier that collapsed triggering an avalanche on the Marmolada Mountain.
Image: Andrea Solero

AUTHORITIES SAID CONDITIONS at a glacier in the Italian Alps were too unstable for searchers and dogs to work where a chunk of ice broke loose at the weekend, killing several hikers.

But with the aid of drones, two more bodies were spotted at the edge of tons of debris from the avalanche.

The discovery raised to nine the known death toll from Sunday’s avalanche, Trento Provincial President Maurizio Fugatti told reporters this evening in the resort town of Canazei, at the foot of the Marmolada glacier-topped mountain.

Five people who had been hiking have been unaccounted for. But authorities stressed that until identification can be made on the two bodies pinpointed by drones, it will not be clear if they number among those five whose families said they never returned from the mountain.

All of the missing are Italians. So far, four of the nine dead have been identified.

While hikers were enjoying a Sunday outing in warm, sunny weather, an enormous portion of the glacier detached, sending an avalanche of ice and rocks thundering across a main hiking trail.

Rescuers said they hoped the temperature would dip on Thursday, lessening the risk of more avalanches, so searchers could go on the Marmolada slope.

italy-glacier-hikers-killed Path signs are seen in front of the Punta Rocca glacier near Canazei. Source: AP/PA Images

Relatives of the missing Italians pressed for the retrieval of their loved ones’ bodies, which are believed to be buried under the avalanche.

The size of the glacier’s detached pinnacle has been compared to an apartment building.

Trento Prosecutor Sandro Raimondi said in an interview on Italian state radio today that he opened a formal investigation to determine if any negligence was involved. Prosecutors plan to consult geologists.

But Raimondi said it appeared at this point that the avalanche could not have been anticipated.

“The unpredictability in this moment is the chief protagonist,” he said.

Forensic police investigators dispatched from the city of Parma took samples from some of the remains recovered to try to determine if they belonged to any of the people missing.

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Meanwhile, the mayors of Canazei and smaller towns at the base of mountains in the Dolomite range issued ordinances closing off the Marmolada peak to hikers. Some people ignored the orders and scrambled up the lower slopes.

Authorities have cited a weeks-long heat wave in northern Italy and scant winter snowfall as likely factors in the weekend breakup of the glacier, which has dramatically shrank over decades.

Last weekend, the temperature on Marmolada topped 10C, unusually high for early summer, authorities said.

Polar sciences experts at an Italian government-run research centre estimated that the Marmolada glacier could disappear entirely in the next 25-30 years if current climatic trends continue.

Between 2004 and 2015, the glacier lost 30% of its volume and 22% of its area.

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