Three Italian climbers found dead on Mont Blanc

A photo taken on August 10, 2018 shows a helicopter flying over the Mont Blanc massif, on the Italian side of the Alps, in the area where three Italian moutaineers have been reported missing for three days. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018

Three Italian climbers found dead on Mont Blanc

  • The first body was recovered after rescuers cut the cord linking the three climbers, and attempts to recover the other two will resume Saturday morning
  • Overcrowding has increased the risks for the around 300 climbers who attempt to reach the top each day

LYON: Three Italian climbers were found dead Friday on Mont Blanc in the French Alps, three days after they set out to summit Europe’s highest peak, rescue workers said.
The body of Luca Lombardini was recovered by the mountain police rescue service. Those of his brother and his fiancee were located nearby but have yet to be retrieved.
“They are probably buried under rocks and ice in an area covering a few dozen square meters,” an official at the rescue service said.
They were found around 1:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) at the foot of the Aiguille Verte (“Green Needle“), one of the peaks in the Mont Blanc massif.
“They were going along a ridge at an altitude of 3,400 to 3,500 meters (11,100-11,500 feet), and it seems they slipped and fell together,” the official said.
The ascent was a birthday present for Luca, who was joined by his fiancee and his brother Alessandro, himself a mountain rescue worker in Bardonecchia, near the French border, Italy’s Ansa news agency reported.
The first body was recovered after rescuers cut the cord linking the three climbers, and attempts to recover the other two will resume Saturday morning.
The accident brings to 15 the death toll on the 4,810-meter (10,500-foot) Mont Blanc during this year’s climbing season so far, after 14 people died and two went missing last year.
Overcrowding has increased the risks for the around 300 climbers who attempt to reach the top each day.
Officials last month began limiting access on the most popular route up Mont Blanc by turning away climbers who do not have reservations at the 120-bed Gouter refuge.
The heatwave that gripped much of Europe in recent weeks has also made conditions more treacherous, causing more ice to melt, making the ground more instable.


South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

Updated 22 January 2020

South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

  • South Korea will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct

SEOUL: South Korea’s military said on Tuesday it plans to expand the deployment of an anti-piracy unit now operating off the coast of Africa to the area around the Strait of Hormuz, after the United States pressed for help in guarding oil tankers.
Attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran last year prompted US officials to call for allies to join a planned maritime security mission.
While South Korea, a key US ally, will deploy its forces to the area, including the Gulf, it will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct, the defense ministry said.
“The South Korean government decided to temporarily expand the deployment of the Cheonghae military unit,” a ministry official told reporters, adding that the step would ensure the safety of citizens and free navigation of South Korean vessels.
The decision to divert the navy unit already operating southwest of Arabia is a political compromise that will not require fresh authorization by parliament ahead of an election in April.
The Cheonghae unit will continue with its mission while it cooperates with the coalition, the ministry said, adding that the United States had been briefed on the decision, which was also explained to the Iranians separately.
The United States welcomes and appreciates South Korea’s decision to expand the mission of its Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz, William Coleman, spokesman for the US Embassy in Seoul, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“This decision is a demonstration of the strength of the US-ROK alliance and our commitment to cooperate on global security concerns.”
The Iranian embassy in Seoul had no comment on the matter.
The Strait of Hormuz is a busy passageway into the Gulf, with vessels sailing through it approximately 900 times a year for South Korea, which gets more than 70% of its oil from the Middle East, the defense ministry says.
Sending troops to the area has been a politically sensitive issue in South Korea ahead of the election.
A survey by pollster Realmeter last week showed 48.4% of South Koreans were opposed to dispatching soldiers to the Strait, while 40.3% supported the idea.
Tuesday’s move was broadly supported by lawmakers although some said it could risk Iran ties and the safety of South Koreans in the region. A number of progressive activist groups issued a statement criticizing the decision and said they will stage a protest in front of the president’s office on Wednesday.
The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, working to tackle piracy in partnership with African countries as well as the United States and the European Union.
The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats, South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper showed.
Among its operations were the rescue of a South Korean ship and its crew in 2011, shooting eight suspected pirates and capturing five others in the incident.
The South Korean troops have also evacuated South Korean citizens from Libya and Yemen, and as of November 2018 had escorted around 18,750 South Korean and international vessels.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer and one of Iran’s major oil customers, stopped importing Iranian crude from May after waivers of US sanctions ended at the start of that month.