Climbing accidents claim lives in Italy's icy Alps

LECCO, Italy (AP) - A layer of ice formed overnight in northern Italy's Alps sent at least 10 climbers and skiers sliding to their deaths Sunday. The victims included four climbers who died one by one trying to rescue a dog and then, themselves.

Rescuers were having trouble reaching the victims on the icy slopes and helicopters were needed to recover some of the victims and bodies, said Guido Villa, emergency aid director in the Alpine town of Lecco, near the Austrian border.

Sunday began with a sunny morning after a spell of rain, and ''maybe some people, tempted by the beautiful weather, went where there were no conditions to go,'' said Cesare Maestri, 72, one of Italy's most respected Alpine veterans.

A ''strange, nonsensical winter'' with early snow followed by rain and sun apparently has made for dangerously deceiving conditions in the southern Alps, with almost invisible ice, Maestri told Italy's ANSA news service.

Sunday's worst accident occurred on 7,920-foot Mount Arera near Bergamo, 30 miles east of Milan in Italy's Lombardy province, where four Italian men died, said Giancarlo Stefani, emergency services medical director in Bergamo.

The new ice there was too thin for climbers' spiked boots to get a solid hold, Stefani said.

One of the climbers tried to rescue a dog that had somehow gotten in trouble, and fell, Stefani said. The climber's companions died in subsequent rescue attempts.

A fifth Italian man died climbing a nearby mountain for a ski run down. Onlookers lost sight of him but saw his skis fly up in the air without him. Helicopters later recovered his body, Stefani said.

Five other people died in accidents on Alpine peaks around Lecco, all of them climbers dying singly or in pairs, said Villa, the emergency aid director.

A rescue crew flying a victim to a hospital in Lecco spotted yet another body in a crevice, Villa said. The person being flown to the hospital also died.

At least four other people were injured.

Dozens of people die in Europe's Alps each year, most in avalanches.


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