Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trapped glacier water threatens French Alps valley

A pocket of water big enough to fill 20 Olympic pools, trapped inside a glacier on Mont Blanc, could burst at any time and endanger lives in a French Alpine valley, officials said Thursday.

Researchers at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) said 65,000 cubic meters of water discovered inside the Tte-Rousse glacier could explode and destroy everything in its path, including nearby villages and nearly 900 homes.

Such a catastrophe happened in the area in 1892, killing around 200 people.

Researchers made the discovery when carrying out a routine check on the glacier. "We did not expect at all to find this pocket of water," said Christian Vincent, a CNRS geophysics engineer.

"This occurrence is very rare. Water in glaciers usually drains naturally, trickling away. In this case, the glacier has imprisoned very cold water and risks exploding under pressure. It now looks like a pressure cooker," Vincent said.

Local authorities said they had warned over 3,000 residents and told them what was being done to drain the water.

"Pumping operations through vertically drilled pockets on top of glacier to drain the water will begin from mid-August to October," said Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of the nearby town of St Gervais.

Reuters,"Trapped glacier water threatens French Alps valley", accessed July 29, 2010

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