With Glacier Collapse Looming, an 'Urgent' Evacuation

Residents, tourists in Italian resort town are sent elsewhere due to risk of falling Mont Blanc ice
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2020 7:11 AM CDT
With Glacier Collapse Looming, an 'Urgent' Evacuation
The Planpincieux glacier is seen from Val Ferret, a popular hiking area on the south side of Mont Blanc, near Courmayeur in Italy on Thursday.   (Stefano Bertolino/LaPresse via AP)

As scientists nervously keep tabs on a giant section of ice in danger of falling off a Mont Blanc glacier, homes have been evacuated in the resort town of Courmayeur in Italy's Aosta Valley, while visitors have been told to go elsewhere. "We will find [alternative] solutions for residents," Courmayeur Mayor Stefano Miserocchi told the Italian news agency ANSA, per the Guardian, adding to reporters that the evacuation was "urgent and imperative." He added: "The tourists will have to find other solutions." The clearing out started Wednesday after experts determined nearly 17.7 million cubic feet of ice from the Planpincieux glacier, which has been monitored for the past seven years, was at risk of sliding off; the Independent describes it as an area the size of a soccer field.

"Any fall would be capable of considerable damage and also travel a long way," comparable to an avalanche, a local natural-risk-management service director said at a Thursday press conference, per France 24. Glaciologists say if such a a collapse took place, it would only take a couple of minutes for the mass to reach the road at the base of the massif. About 75 people in total have been moved out of the area. Ice falling from the glacier has had deadly results before: Two years ago, following a heavy storm, an elderly couple died after their car was swept away by the ensuing debris flow. French President Emmanuel Macron has said in the past that melting glaciers in the region show "irrefutable proof of global warming and climate change and the toppling of an entire ecosystem," the Independent notes. (Read more Mont Blanc stories.)

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