At least 6 dead after chunk of Alpine glacier in Italy strikes hikers

ROME — At least six people were killed Sunday when a large chunk of an Alpine glacier broke loose in the northeastern Italian mountains, striking more than a dozen hikers, several media outlets reported.

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Update 6:05 p.m. EDT July 3: A local Civil Protection official, Gianpaolo Bottacin, said that six people were killed and nine were injured, The Associated Press reported. Bottacin added that the toll could rise, adding the the situation at the peak was “evolving” and there could be as many as 15 people missing.

Update 3:15 p.m. EDT July 3: Emergency officials updated the fatality figure to five, with eight people injured, the BBC and The Associated Press reported. Two of the people hurt suffered serious injuries, according to the BBC.

It was not immediately clear how many hikers were in the area or whether any were missing, Walter Milan, a spokesperson for the national Alpine rescue corps, told the AP.

Original report: The four fatalities were reported by RAI, Italy’s state television network, according to The Associated Press. The network did not cite a source for its report.

The la Repubblica daily newspaper in Rome, citing rescuers at the scene, reported that six people were killed and more than 10 were missing after the glacier’s collapse.

Earlier Sunday, the National Alpine Cliff and Cave Rescue Corps tweeted that the search near the Marmolada peak, which is the highest peak in the Dolomites at about 10,968 feet above sea level, involved at least five helicopters and rescue dogs.

Emergency dispatchers in northeast Italy tweeted that about 15 hikers were believed to have been in the area, the AP reported.

The segment that broke away from the glacier is known as a serac, the news organization said.

“A breaking away of rock provoked the opening of a crevasse on the glacier, leaving about 15 people involved,″ the emergency dispatchers tweeted, according to the AP.

“We heard a loud noise, typical of a landslide, then we saw a kind of avalanche composed of snow and ice descending at high speed and from there I realized that something serious had happened,” one of the managers of the Castiglioni Marmolada refuge who witnessed the collapse told la Repubblica. “With binoculars, you can see the break from here of the (serac). It is likely that something is still coming off.”

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