Italy: access is always blocked at the foot of a glacier, threatening to collapse

Italie: accès toujours bloqués au pied d’un glacier menaçant de s’effondrer

Courmayeur | The access to the small valley of Val Ferret on the Italian side of the mont Blanc massif, remained banned Friday by the local authorities, worried about the risk of collapse of an immense glacier on an inhabited area.

“None shall pass! No car, nor bicycle, nor pedestrian ” : an automatic barrier and two security guards blocking access from the asphalt road winding in the hollow of a green valley, at the foot of the Grandes Jorasses and the glacier of Planpincieux, found the AFP.

As a huge sérac, a volume of ice estimated at 500 000 cubic metres, i.e. the size of the Milan cathedral, or a football field covered with 80 metres of ice “- the threat to detach from the glacier, according to local authorities, who have ordered on Wednesday evening for at least 72 hours of the evacuation as a “red zone” below.

In the Italian region of Val d’aosta, the valley of Val Ferret, which in this summer period is the delight of tourists and lovers of mountain, is nearby to the famous resort of Courmayeur and to the entrance of the tunnel of Mont Blanc, vital road between France and Italy.

The area is however located at least four kilometres from the entrance to the tunnel, and still more of Courmayeur, where the situation was perfectly normal Friday, with its clusters of tourists strolling down the sunny streets.

In total, only 75 people were evacuated, and a score of residents and vacationers. The evacuation was ” urgent and imperative “, explained the mayor of Courmayeur, Stefano Miserocchi, speaking of a “state of high alert” for 72 hours.

The local authorities are worried about the temperature for the next three days in the period of high summer heat, after a cold snap at the end of July.

“This situation is particularly difficult, because it disrupts the level of the water between the ice and the rock, and thus the stability of the glacier,” said Friday, AFP, Valerio Segor, director of the management of natural hazards in the Val d’aosta.

“The problem now is that the water doesn’t seep enough and remains as a bubble under the glacier, the risk of the lift,” and to precipitate the fall of its most fragile, according to Mr. Segor.

A large flaw was actually visible on the lower part of the Planpincieux, where they drained two water cascades to the valley, found the AFP in the course of a flight in helicopter over the majestic glacier, clinging to the wall like a gigantic block of styrofoam greyish.

In September and October 2019, glacier de Planpincieux had already threatened to collapse partially, on a portion of nearly 250,000 cubic metres. Surveillance measures have since been put in place.

The part weakened the glacier is located between 2 600 and 2 800 meters of altitude, in the direct vicinity of the refuge Boccalatte, wooden house a stone’s throw on the rock, but who is open to mountaineers, has been found.

In Courmayeur, as in the small village of la Palud, leading to the Val Ferret and the output of which the road is closed, the evacuation decided upon “in an emergency” elicits skepticism or even sharp criticism of the residents as tourism professionals, concerned about the consequences on their sector of activity.

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