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Mont Blanc glacier risks collapsing

Following warnings that part of a glacier could collapse at any moment, Italian authorities have shut down roads and ordered the evacuation of the Italian side of the Mont Blanc mastiff.

In this photo dated June 2009, risk of part of the Planpincieux glacier breaking off amid climate warming in the Alps has prompted Italian authorities to forbid hikers and tourists from a section of the Val Ferrat area, shown from the famed Tour du Mont Blanc trail outside Courmayeur, Italy.
Randall Hackley, Associated Press

Italian authorities have shut down roads and ordered the evacuation of the Italian side of Mont Blanc after recent warnings that part of a glacier could break at any moment.

Officials issued the warning after surveyors observed a significant increase in the sliding speed of the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses mountain in the Mont Blanc mastiff, according to The Washington Post. Surveys had shown that the lower portion of the glacier was moving 19 to 23 inches a day.

“These phenomena once again show that the mountain is going through a phase of strong change due to climactic factors, therefore it is particularly vulnerable,” Courmayeur mayor Stefano Miserocchi said in a statement. “In this case, it’s a temperate glacier particularly sensitive to high temperatures.”

Miserocchi added that the collapsing of the glacier would not threaten residential areas or tourist facilities, according to CNN.

“It is not news that a glacier on Mont Blanc risks collapsing,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. “It’s an alarm that cannot leave us indifferent. It must shake us all and mobilize us.”

According to a study published in the April Cryosphere journal, glaciers could lose two-thirds of their volume by the end of the century.

The glaciers in the Alps provide vital water and meet hydroelectric needs in the area, according to The Washington Post. The melting process seems to already be underway as people gathered in Switzerland on Sunday to mourn the Pizol glacier, which had lost 80 to 90% of its volume since 2006.