Human remains have been found in the search for missing hikers in the Dolomites, as alpine rescuers scoured a mountain where at least seven people were killed by a collapsing glacier.
The discoveries were made as experts warned that other victims of the avalanche on the 3,343-metre high Mount Marmolada in northern Italy might never be found.
Alex Barattin, a mountain rescuer, said: “There were people who were unrecognisable, bodies disfigured and mangled. The amount of material that fell was enormous and it had devastating effects.
“Finding someone alive with this type of event is a very remote possibility, very remote, because the mechanical action of this type of avalanche has a very big impact on people.”
Maurizio Dellantonio, the national head of the Italian alpine rescue service, said some of the recovered remains could help identify victims, including “bones that have not been flayed, a piece of hand with a ring, tattoos, anything that can enable a person to be identified”.
Seven people died, eight were injured and five are still missing after a giant chunk of ice broke off from the glacier that caps the mountain, nicknamed “the queen of the Dolomites”, on Sunday. It raced down the side of the mountain at an estimated 300kmh, giving hikers, some of whom were roped together, little time to get out of the way.
Unusually sparse snowfall in the winter has exposed glaciers in the Dolomites and Alps more to the summer heat, glaciologists have said.
On Saturday, the temperature at the summit of the glacier was 10C, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Experts predict that the Marmolada glacier is likely to melt completely by 2050.
The avalanche occurred as Italy experiences record-breaking temperatures.
Yesterday, the government declared a state of emergency in five northern regions, and will send more than €36m to Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy and Piedmont to help deal with water shortages.
An investigation is under way to ascertain whether the glacier collapse could have been predicted.
Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, said: “How can one predict a thing like that?”
But others said warning signs had been evident for weeks, as high temperatures led to the melting of the glacier and created unstable conditions.
Gino Comelli, an alpine rescue official, said: “In just a few weeks, an immense accumulation of water formed beneath the glacier. The pressure of the water, squeezed between the ice and the rock, gave way like a bomb.”
Search efforts resumed yesterday, with police and rescue services sending helicopters and four drones over the area.
Mario Draghi, Italy’s prime minister, visited the Dolomites on Monday to offer his condolences to victims’ families.
“This is a drama that certainly has unforeseen elements, but certainly is also linked to the deterioration of the environment and the climate situation,” he said. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)
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