At least six hikers along a popular trail in the Alps in northeastern Italy were killed Sunday when a large chunk of glacier broke off.
Falling ice, snow and rocks hit a group of hikers in the Dolomites, killing six of them and injuring eight others, authorities said.
A spokesman for the Alpine rescue team said it was impossible to determine how many people were in the area at the time or if anyone was missing.
Walter Milan, a spokesman, said that rescuers are currently checking license plates in the parking lot to figure out how many people may be missing – a process that can take hours.
Mr. Milan also could not specify the nationality or age of the deceased. He said that of the eight people at the hospital, two were in serious condition.
Helicopters and rescue dogs have joined the search around the Marmolada summit area, according to the National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps.
The emergency dispatch service said 18 people above the area where the ice occurred would be evacuated by the Alpine rescue team.
Emergency dispatchers said: “A broken rock created a rift in the glacier, injuring about 15 people.
It is still unclear what caused the ice to break off and plunge down the slope of the mountain.
However, the intense heat wave that has enveloped Italy since the end of June could be a factor, Milan told state TV channel RAI.
“Temperatures are unusual,” Milan said, noting that temperatures in recent days at the peak have reached 10C.
“It was extremely hot,” said Milan. “Obviously it was something unusual.”
Rescue services said the injured were taken to several hospitals in the regions of Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto.