September 25, 2019 / 11:22 AM / 24 days ago

Mont Blanc glacier at risk of collapse, PM calls for climate action

A helicopter flies over a segment of the Planpincieux glacier on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif area of Planpincieux, Aosta, Italy, September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

MILAN (Reuters) - Part of a glacier on Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, is at risk of collapse, prompting Italian authorities to close roads and evacuate Alpine hamlets and the prime minister to call for action to tackle global warming.

A section estimated to contain up to 250,000 cubic meters of ice could fall down the mountain, the mayor of the nearby town of Courmayeur, Stefano Miserocchi, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Miserocchi ordered the closing of two roads and the evacuation of huts on the mountain, which is 4,800 meters (5,250 yards) high, after experts said the Planpincieux glacier was sliding at an increased speed, threatening part of the Ferret Valley.

Between the end of August and the beginning of September the lower part of the glacier was sliding at a speed of 50-60 cm (20-24 inches) per day. )

“These phenomena show once more how the mountain is experiencing a period of great changes due to climate factors, so it is especially vulnerable”, Miserocchi said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, speaking on Wednesday at the U.N. General Assembly, said “news that a glacier on the Mont Blanc risks collapsing is a warning that can’t leave us indifferent, it must shake us up and we have to mobilize.” 

Across the Alps there is concern that warmer temperatures are increasing the danger of melting permafrost and disappearing glaciers.

Reporting by Elisa Anzolin and Francesca Piscioneri, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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