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Mont Blanc Glacier Poised to Collapse, Italy Evacuates Area

Grandes Jorasses
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Experts monitoring the 512-square-mile Planpincieux glacier warned an 8.8-million-cubic-foot block could collapse over a popular hiking area without warning.

Italian officials today closed roads and evacuated huts around the Grandes Jorasses mountain on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif. Stefano Miserocchi, mayor of the nearby town of Courmayeur, signed the order following a report this week that showed the glacier was melting at an accelerated rate of 50-60 cm per day.

“These phenomena once again show how the mountain is going through a period of major change due to climate factors and, therefore, it is particularly vulnerable,” Miserocchi said in a statement.

The order closed roads and huts through a section of the Val Ferret, a well-traveled hiking area on Mont Blanc’s south side.

Mont Blanc Glacier Melting

Despite the alarming rate of melt and the unprecedented move to cordon off the area, Mayor Miserocchi said the glacier posed no threat to residential areas.

The Fondazione Montagna Sicura (Safe Mountain Foundation), which co-authored the report, has been monitoring the Planpincieux glacier since 2013. And it found “an increase in speed of the entire lower portion of the glacier” compared to previous surveys — a speed that maxed out at nearly 2 feet per day.

The FMS also noted that, presently, “there is no real monitoring system available” to sound alarms or alert the public to an inevitable collapse.

We will update this story as it develops.

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