Italian homes evacuated over risk of Mont Blanc glacier collapse

Angela Giuffrida in Rome
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Thierry Pronesti/EPA</span>
Photograph: Thierry Pronesti/EPA

Homes have been evacuated in Courmayeur in Italy’s Aosta valley, after a renewed warning that a huge portion of a Mont Blanc glacier is at risk of collapse.

The measures were introduced on Wednesday morning after experts from the Fondazione Montagne Sicura (Safe Mountains Foundation) said 500,000 cubic metres of ice was in danger of sliding off the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses park.


Some 65 people, including 50 tourists, have left homes in Val Ferret, the hamlet beneath the glacier. Roads have been closed to traffic and pedestrians.

“We will find [alternative] solutions for residents,” Stefano Miserocchi, the mayor of Courmayeur, told the Italian news agency Ansa. “The tourists will have to find other solutions.”

Glaciologists monitoring Planpincieux say a new section of ice is at risk of collapse. Homes were also evacuated in September last year following a warning that 250,000 cubic meters of ice could fall. The movement of the glacial mass was due to “anomalous temperature trends”, the experts said.

The glacier has been closely monitored since 2013 to detect the speed at which the ice is melting.

In August 2018, a heavy storm unleashed a debris flow, killing an elderly couple when their car was swept from the road that is currently closed.

In the event of a collapse, it would take less than two minutes for the mass to reach the municipal road below.

Monitoring a section of the Planpincieux glacier.
Monitoring a section of the Planpincieux glacier. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

Safe Mountain Foundation experts are monitoring 184 glaciers in the Aosta valley region.

There are 4,000 glaciers across the Mont Blanc massif, the highest mountain range in Europe, which straddles Italy, France and Switzerland.

Scientists predict that if emissions continue to rise at the current rate, the Alpine glaciers could shed half of their ice by 2050.