The search for more than a dozen hikers who are still missing a day after a huge chunk of an Alpine glacier in Italy broke off is being hampered by thunderstorms.
Rescuers said conditions downslope from the Marmolada glacier were still too unstable to send back teams of people and dogs to dig into tonnes of debris.
Seven people are now known to have died after the avalanche of ice, snow, and rocks on Sunday afternoon.
Eight others were injured, while drones have been deployed to search for those unaccounted for.
Regional leader, Maurizio Fugatti, said 14 people were missing: 10 Italians, three from the Czech Republic and one from Austria.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the avalanche was linked to climate change.
He met some of the victims’ families and expressed “the most sincere, affectionate, heartfelt closeness” to them, and demanded action be taken so a similar tragedy does not happen again.
“This is a drama that certainly has some unpredictability,” Mr Draghi said, echoing several experts who said an avalanche triggered by a glacier’s break-up could not be forecast.
But what happened “certainly depends on environmental deterioration and the climate situation”, the premier said.
At least four bodies, brought to a makeshift morgue at an ice rink in Canazei in the Dolomites, have been identified.
RAI said three of those were Italians, including an experienced Alpine guide who was leading a group of hikers.
Another was a hiker whose relatives said had sent a selfie from the slope shortly before the avalanche.
One of the deceased was from the Czech Republic, RAI said.
Temperatures ‘absolutely an anomaly’
Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia said some of those hiking in the area on Sunday were roped together as they climbed.
What caused part of the glacier to break off and thunder down the slope at a speed estimated by experts at nearly 200mph is not immediately known.
But the heatwave gripping Italy since May, bringing temperatures unusually high for the start of summer even up in the normally cooler Alps, was being cited as a likely factor.
Upon arrival at an emergency rescue centre in Canazei, Mr Draghi said the collapse was “linked to” climate change.
Glacier collapse another warning climate change is hitting the planet now
The Marmolada glacier collapse is a natural danger, in this case, directly linked to climate change – so say climate scientists.
How can they already be so sure?
The steep section of the Marmolada that gave way relies on sub-zero temperatures to keep it stable.
Hotter temperatures driven by human-induced climate change melt ice into water, triggering instability and collapses.
Glaciers around the world are now melting at unprecedented rates and are likely to continue shrinking well into the 22nd century.
Scorching heat has tormented northern Italy already this summer. Temperatures around the Marmolada recently reached a staggering 10C, and many other areas set June or all-time records for heat.
The Mediterranean country is also suffering one of its worst droughts in decades, triggering water rationing and sparking fears of an agricultural “catastrophe”.
It is a net exporter of food, and its northern mountains and lakes together attract visitors year-round.
The manifold impacts are a warning to anyone who thinks the impacts of climate change are distant in time or geography. They are here and now.
Jacopo Gabrieli, a polar sciences researcher at Italy’s state-run CNR research centre, said the temperatures were “absolutely an anomaly”.
Alpine rescuers on Sunday noted that late last week, the temperature on the 3,300-metre high peak had topped 10C (50F), far higher than usual.
The glacier, in the Marmolada range, is the largest in the Dolomite mountains in northeastern Italy. It is popular with skiers in the winter.
But it has been rapidly melting away over the past decades, with much of its volume gone.
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