A huge piece of a glacier breaks off in the Dolomites, taking several mountaineers with it on the way down into the valley. At least six people die. The accident is likely to be related to the drought and heat in the country.

With brutal thunder, masses of ice, snow and rocks fall from a glacier in northern Italy into the valley: in addition to the six confirmed deaths of the glacier fall in the Dolomites, the rescue workers fear a good dozen more victims.

The Ansa news agency reported around 15 missing people, referring to rescue groups. 16 cars were counted in the parking lot at the foot of the northern Italian mountain massif Marmolada, from which the ascent paths start, whose owners have not yet been located. “We do not yet know whether the cars belong to the dead or missing people or to people who have nothing to do with the accident,” said the regional president of Trentino-Alto Adige, Maurizio Fugatti.

According to the rescue control center of the Veneto region, at least eight other alpinists were injured, one of them seriously. Nothing was initially known about the nationality.

A number of cell phone videos showed how the avalanche fell over the rock faces of the massif into the valley. She also plowed down one of the main access routes to the 3,343-meter mountain, which featured several rope teams. At least two were hit.

A spokesman for the Italian mountain rescue service told the German Press Agency that it was initially unclear whether there were individual mountaineers at the scene of the accident in addition to the rope teams.

Helicopter in action

All mountain rescuers in the area from the Veneto and Trentino-South Tyrol regions were alerted. They flew five helicopters up the mountain and recovered the dead and injured. Some dog teams were used to search for other victims.

Because of the danger of new glacier falls, the search for other victims of the accident in the Dolomites on the ground has been interrupted for the time being. As the emergency services announced on Sunday evening, the mountain rescuers were withdrawn from the flank of Mount Marmolada. First of all, it must be clarified how safe the situation is for the helpers. The helicopters continued to operate.

Carlo Budel, the host of the Capanna Punta Penia refuge, spoke in an Instagram video of the “worst possible time and day on which the chunk could come loose”. Shortly after midday, countless mountaineers were out and about on the popular massif on a summery Sunday. Budel asked all alpinists not to come to the Marmolada until further notice. “Stay as far away from this glacier as possible,” warned the innkeeper.

“We heard a loud noise, typical of a landslide,” said an eyewitness to the Ansa news agency. “After that we saw an avalanche of snow and ice fall at high speed towards the valley and we knew that something bad had happened.”

“It wasn’t a normal avalanche like in winter”

There was initially no official information on the cause of the accident – however, everything indicates that the high temperatures of the past few days, weeks and months are likely to play a role. According to media reports, a record value of ten degrees was measured on the summit of the mountain on Saturday. “I’ve never seen anything like it on the Marmolada. It wasn’t a normal avalanche like in winter,” said a mountain rescuer. He compared the accident to a building and spoke of a “structural failure”.

Italy registered much less precipitation than usual last winter, and many glaciers now lack snow to protect them from the sun and the warm temperatures.