Emergency services at the site of a deadly avalanche in the Italian Dolomites recovered every body part they could find on Tuesday, and the risk of being trapped under a partially collapsed glacier has slowed the search.
Rescue teams dispatched helicopters and drones on the second day after Sunday’s crash that killed at least seven hikers when part of the country’s largest alpine glacier collapsed, sending ice and rocks crashing down the mountain.
Italy has blamed the collapse on climate change, and fears that the glacier could collapse are preventing access to much of the area where tourists are believed to be buried, some tied up with ropes.
Authorities declared 14 people missing, but reduced the number to five on Tuesday after tracking some of the missing.
They emphasized from the very beginning that the exact number of climbers at the site of the avalanche is unknown.
“Operations on the ground will only be carried out to retrieve any remains found by drones to ensure the safety of rescuers,” the Trentino Alpine Rescue Service said Tuesday.
Experts have been surveying the area to determine how best to ensure that sniffer dog teams can safely enter the site on Wednesday or Thursday, national head of the Service, Maurizio Dellantonio, told the AGI news agency.
Relatives of the missing gathered in the city of Canazei, where the found remains were placed in a makeshift morgue at the gym.
“Important finds, not just bones, are first photographed, then removed and placed in a helicopter,” and then taken to Canazei for “cataloging and cold storage,” Dellantonio said.
Such finds were “unflayed bones, a piece of an arm with a ring, tattoos, anything that could allow a person to be identified,” including shoes, backpacks and ice axes.
There is hope for the survivors
Helicopter pilot Fausto Zambelli told reporters that some of the items were seen from the air, but it is not yet clear “whether this means there are casualties or they belong to old tourist expeditions.”
He said there was little hope of finding survivors under the ice, but it had not completely disappeared.
If there are “pockets” (of air), there is still hope. Time is obviously short, but we still hope to find someone alive.
The disaster came a day after a record high temperature of 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded at the top of Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Italian Dolomites.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella said the collapse was “a symbol of the many tragedies that unmanaged climate change is causing in many parts of the world.”
One of the bodies found belonged to a Czech who was traveling with a friend who was reported missing, the Czech Foreign Ministry told AFP.
The Trento prosecutor’s office launched an investigation to determine the causes of the tragedy.
The glacier, nicknamed the “Queen of the Dolomites”, feeds the Avisio River and rises above Lake Fedaya in the autonomous Italian province of Trento.
According to the March report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), melting ice and snow is one of the top 10 threats caused by global warming, destroying ecosystems and infrastructure.