VLADIKAVKAZ - More than 100 people remained missing Monday following a devastating avalanche in southern Russia as rescuers renewed their efforts to find survivors after a giant chunk of glacier roared down a gorge popular with hikers.
Emergency Ministry officials have said they fear that as many as 150 people were killed, and they are holding out little hope of finding anyone alive anyone who was in the path of the mass of ice, rocks and other debris that raced down the mountain.
According to a list compiled from inquiries from relatives, 113 people are missing, said Alan Doyev, a press spokesman for the Interior Ministry of North Ossetia, where the disaster occurred. The list could grow, Doyev said, as information comes in on shepherds, as well as watchmen at remote tourist camps high in the mountains.
One man who had been reported missing was found alive and unhurt Monday near the mineral lode where he works as a watchman, said Boris Dzgoyev, the head of North Ossetia's Emergency Situations Department.
Meanwhile, rescue workers continued efforts to clear the main road up the mountain under treacherous conditions. In 2 1/2 days, the workers have managed to clear just 1.5 kilometers (one mile) of the road, which is covered with ice, sludge, trees and rocks.
The deputy prime minister of North Ossetia, Konstantin Urtayev, said the damage could reach 450 million rubles (dlrs 14.5 million), the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
New dangers emerged as the temperatures mounted and were expected to reach 26 degrees Celsius (78 Fahrenheit). The snow is melting quickly and the situation could deteriorate were rain to fall, officials said. The water level was expected to rise sharply in some places, including two lakes being formed by the melting ice, and several villages were threatened by flooding, ITAR-Tass reported, citing Russia's Meteorological Committee.
So far only six bodies have been recovered.
Police cars jammed the highway Monday at Gizel, the village near the site where the glacier stopped its slide, and relatives and friends of he missing gathered in small knots, desperate for news.
"We're standing here for the third day, we don't know anything," said Batrazd Agayev, who was waiting for news of a friend who had gone into the mountains. "Bureaucrats pass by in motorcades. We tried to stop them to learn the truth and they almost ran us over."
The disaster occurred Friday evening when a chunk of glacier 150 meters (495 feet) high broke off from beneath a mountain peak and roared down the Genaldon and Gizyeldon gorges at more than 100 kilometers an hour (62 mph), uprooting trees and accumulating mud and rocks as it went.
Among the missing was popular Russian actor Sergei Bodrov and a crew shooting a movie he was directing in the area. Officials say 49 people from the film crew or local support staff were missing, while nine were safe - seven who were not with the others and two who got out of the disaster area.
Officials also feared hikers and campers may have been in the area, popular among residents of the regional capital Vladikavkaz, who often head to the mountains on weekends.
"It sounded like a train was coming, but there are no trains here. We saw an enormous mass coming in our direction, and we ran," said Dmitry Podalyakin, 18, who heard the avalanche's sudden onslaught as he sat with friends in a cafe at a tourist center in the area.
Authorities said the bodies rescuers found - one Saturday and five Sunday - were mangled. Forensic experts managed to identify only one, a 77-year-old watchman whose corpse was found in the river the avalanche followed.
The avalanche slid 33 kilometers (20 miles) - mostly ice at higher elevations and a mix of icy mud and debris lower down - before it stopped on the Gizel-Karmadon highway about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Vladikavkaz.
Nearly 500 rescuers were involved in the search Sunday, and two helicopters buzzed overhead. Equipped with mountaineering gear, rescuers worked along the edges of the mass of debris, hampered by melting ice that could make efforts to delve deeper into the avalanche's path dangerous, officials said.
It was the third time in a century part of the glacier had fallen - an occurrence experts connected to humid, rainy weather over the summer that increased the volume of ice on the glacier.
In 1902, a piece of the same glacier wiped out the village of Genal, killing several dozen people, said Genri Kusov, a geographer and historian at North Ossetian State University. The Soviet government later monitored the glacier and when it began to grow in the 1960s, barriers were built below. When it did break off in 1969, the barriers helped contain the avalanche and limit the damage, Kusov said.
The government stopped monitoring the glacier in the 1970s, he said.