Around 30 people feared dead in Italy avalanche
AFP photoSeveral children were among more around 30 people unaccounted for, feared dead, on Jan. 19, after an avalanche engulfed a mountain hotel in earthquake-ravaged central Italy.
The national civil protection agency said the Hotel Rigopiano had suffered a direct hit by a two-meter (six-feet) high wall of snow on Jan. 18.
Emergency services were struggling to get ambulances and excavation equipment to the remote site with the first snow plough only arriving just before midday.
Italian broadcasters showed images of piles of masonry and rubble inside the hotel, which had been moved some ten meters from its original location by the force of the snow, AFP reported.
Local officials confirmed that one body had been recovered from the ruins and that two guests who were not inside when the avalanche struck had been saved.
Civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio said there had been around 30 guests and staff at the small ski hotel on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain when the first of four powerful tremors rattled the region on the morning of Jan. 18.
“Around 30 people are unaccounted for, between guests and workers at the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola,” Reuters quoted Curcio as saying.
Francesco Provolo, the head of the Pescara province where the disaster occurred, said there had been around 20 people staying at the hotel, including “several children” along with seven or eight staff.
Specialist mountain police who had reached the hotel on skis or by helicopter overnight had begun trying to move the rubble with spades.
They were quoted as saying there were no signs of life inside the building while one of their commanding officers told reporters: “There are many dead,” according to AFP.
Guests at the three-story Hotel Rigopiano in the central Abruzzo region alerted emergency workers of the disaster on Jan. 18, following a series of quakes in the region.
“Help, we’re dying of cold,” one couple wrote rescuers, according to the ANSA news agency, as reported by The Associated Press. Another man, identified by news reports as Fabio Salzetta, sent a SMS message saying he had escaped with a maintenance worker, but that others were trapped inside.
Corriere della Sera quoted the text message as saying: “Some walls were knocked down.” And: “I’m outside with a maintenance worker but you can’t see anything of the hotel, there’s only a wall of snow in front of me.”