Thermal drones search for survivors following a fatal glacier collapse in Italy

Rescuers deployed thermal drones last week to look for possible survivors trapped beneath ice after an avalanche triggered by the collapse of the Italian Alps' biggest glacier killed at least six people and wounded eight more.

Authorities said they did not know how many climbers were injured when the glacier on Marmolada, 's highest peak, broke away.

“We found bodies torn apart, in a shapeless tide of ice and debris stretching over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet),” Gino Comelli from the Alpine Rescue Service told the Corriere della Sera daily.

The accident occurred one day after the glacier's peak reported a record-high temperature of 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Emergency services spokeswoman Michela Canova told AFP an “avalanche of snow, ice and rock” hit an access path at a time when there were several roped parties, “some of whom were swept away”. The total number of climbers involved was “not yet known.”

Thermal drones search through the night

As darkness fell, helicopters and sniffer dogs were ordered off due to concerns that the glacier was still unstable. Canazei mayor Giovanni Bernard told AFP that rescuers deployed drones equipped with infrared cameras to continue the search overnight.

“It is difficult for the rescuers in a dangerous situation,” he said.

Images captured from a nearby shelter show snow and rock racing down the mountain's slopes.

“It's a miracle we're alive,” Stefano Dal Moro, an engineer who was hiking with his Israeli partner, told Corriere della Sera. “There was a dull noise, then that sea of ice came down. It's useless to run, you can only pray that it doesn't come your way. We crouched down and hugged each other tightly as the ice passed.”

Bodies recovered from the ice and rock were transported to the town of Canazei. The Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi was scheduled to visit Canazei.

“The current conditions of the glacier correspond to mid-August, not early July,” he said.

The public prosecutor's office in Trento has launched an inquiry to discover what caused the catastrophe.

You can read more stories about how thermal drones are being used for good right here on DroneXL.

Photo courtesy of P. Teyssot, AFP

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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