Mont Blanc: Homes evacuated amid fears glacier might collapse

Residents of Italy’s Aosta Valley have been told to evacuate their homes over fears that a portion of a Mont Blanc glacier the size of a football pitch could collapse over the region.

Some 75 people were evacuated from the town of Courmayeur after the Safe Mountains Foundation sounded the alarm over 10,000 cubic metres of ice which could fall from the Planpincieux glacier in the coming days.

The glacier’s degradation has caused disruption and death in the past – killing an elderly couple near Courmayeur in 2018 when their car was swept from the road in an event that prompted a mass evacuation of the surrounding area.

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Around 60 tourists and 15 residents are now reported to have been removed to safety, while those in the Val Ferret region have been told to stay only if they have adequate supplies of essentials including food to last three days.

Safe Mountain Foundation glaciologist Fabrizio Troilo told La Stampa there was “a risk of instant collapse”.

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The region was also evacuated in 2019 due to the threat posed by the glacier, but experts say the portion now at risk of breaking off is twice the size as last year.

Mr Troilo said there is “now there is an enormous body of ice leaning against the rock”.

Mont Blanc, Europe’s second highest peak, is home to some 4,000 glaciers, of which the Safe Mountains Foundation monitors 184 for signs of glacial melt.

French president Emmanuel Macron has called the melting of glaciers around the mountain range, which straddles Italy, France and Switzerland, “irrefutable proof of global warming and climate change and the toppling of an entire ecosystem”.

Meanwhile scientists at non-profit research institute CREA Mont Blanc have warned that rising temperatures mean that “since 1850, glaciers in the Alps have lost between 30 and 40% of their surface area and half of their volume”.

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