July 4 (UPI) — The number of people confirmed dead has grown to seven after a glacier collapse on Marmolada in the Italian alps, officials said Monday, though search and rescue efforts have been suspended because of heavy rain.
Emergency officials told the BBC and the Italian news agency ANSA that the death toll has grown to seven after the body of another victim was found and that the number is expected to continue to rise as at least 14 people remain missing.
Eight people were reported to have been injured with two of them suffering serious injuries, emergency officials told the BBC. Rescuers have identified three of the seven killed as Italians, two of whom were described as mountain guides.
It was previously reported that at least five people had died and eight others were injured after the massive ice chunk broke loose and slid down the mountain onto a popular hiking trail below on Sunday.
The Emergency Medical Service office in the Veneto region said in a statement later Sunday that another body had been recovered and that 18 people were evacuated from the peaks of Punta Rocca, where they were trapped above where the incident happened.
“At the moment, parked cars are being checked to try to understand how many people if any are still missing,” SUEM Veneto said in its statement.
The National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps said in a statement that the glacier broke loose on Marmolada, a mountain with an elevation of about 11,000 feet and the highest peak in the Dolomite Alps.
The collapse happened along the ascent route of the normal route to reach the summit, CNAS said. All rescue stations in the area were activated and at least five helicopters and dog units were deployed to aid in the search and rescue efforts.
SUEM said that a rock had detached causing the opening of a crevasse on the glacier, though the cause of the collapse remains unknown.
Italian state news agency RAI reported that temperatures at the peak reached about 50 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, which is considered a record-high temperature.
Experts said the heat wave may have contributed to the collapse as the glaciers of the Alps have lost significant volume at an accelerated rate since the late 1980s amid climate change.