A rescue helicopter flies over the glacier that collapsed on the Marmolada range in the Dolomites A rescue helicopter flies over the glacier that collapsed on the Marmolada range in the Dolomites 

Pope prays for victims of Italian glacier tragedy, appeals for care of environment

Pope Francis asks for prayers for victims of an avalanche in northern Italy and warns against disregarding the effects of climate change.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis has asked the faithful to join in prayer for the victims of an avalanche triggered by the melting of a glacier in northern Italy, highlighting the effects of climate change.

A tweet sent from his @Pontifex account on Monday invoked prayers for all those killed and affected by the tragedy on the Marmolada glacier, in which at least 6 people died and 9 were injured.

Rescue operations continue as scores of hikers are still believed to be missing.

"The tragedies we are living because of climate change must push us to urgently find new paths that are respectful towards people and nature,” the Pope tweeted.

The avalanche

Some 17 people remain unaccounted for a day after a huge chunk of an Alpine glacier broke off and slammed into hikers in northern Italy on Sunday afternoon.

Nationalities of the known dead haven't been disclosed, and conditions were too dangerous Monday morning for rescue crews with dogs to resume the search for those missing or to bring down the bodies.

Drones are reportedly being used to look for any of the missing as well as verify safety. Rescuers said conditions downslope from the glacier, which has been melting for decades, were still too unstable to send back teams of people and dogs to dig into tons of debris.

Heat wave

Geologists said it is not known what caused a pinnacle of the glacier to break off and thunder down the slope at a speed estimated at some 300 kph,  but the heat wave gripping Italy since May was being cited as a likely factor.

Experts agree that it would have been impossible to predict when or if a serac - a pinnacle from a glacier's overhang - could break off, as it did on Sunday.

The glacier, in the Marmolada range, is the largest in the Dolomite mountains in northeastern Italy. It has reportedly been rapidly melting away over the past decades, with much of its volume gone.

Experts at Italy’s state-run CNR research center estimated a couple of years ago that the glacier won’t exist anymore within 25-30 years.

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04 July 2022, 15:13