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Two dead, 30 missing as avalanche hit Italy hotel after 4 tremors

20 January 2017 17:00



Rescue workers are continuing a desperate search for people trapped inside the wreckage of an Italian resort hotel flattened by a massive avalanche.

At least 30 people were reported missing and two others found dead after an avalanche buried the remote Rigopiano hotel in the central Abruzzo region on Wednesday.

Rescue teams continued searching through the night on Thursday for possible survivors. Reports on Friday said six people have been found alive at the mountain hotel.

According to local press reports, at least two bodies were recovered from the ruins of the four-star hotel amid difficult conditions created by the avalanche.

“We’re holding on to hope that there are survivors inside,” Deputy Interior Minister Filippo Bubbico told reporters Thursday in the town of Penne, where a camp for rescue teams has been established.

“Firefighters and alpine rescuers are working tirelessly and now the army is doing everything to improve access to the route,” he said.

Two people who were outside the hotel at the time of the tragedy have survived, including the hotel’s cook – identified as Giampiero Parete — who had gone out to get something from his car moments before the avalanche struck the building. His wife and two young children remained inside and are among those missing.

“The hotel isn’t here anymore, it’s not here,” Parete was quoted as saying by a local daily after he called restaurateur Quintino Marcella Wednesday night frantically pleading for help while insisting that the hotel had been wiped out.

According to Parete, all the guests at the hotel had their bags packed and were waiting in at the lobby for snow plows to clear the roads to check out and leave.

Italian military rescuers prepare to join a rescue operation near the village of Penne, after an avalanche engulfed the mountain hotel Rigopiano in Farindola in the earthquake-ravaged central Italy, on January 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Four earthquakes, stronger than magnitude 5, hit central Italy prior to the avalanche, terrifying residents of rural areas who were already struggling with harsh conditions after heavy snowfall buried phone lines and took out power cables.

Local reports indicate that 22 guests and seven staff members were registered as occupying at the hotel at the time of the incident, among them children, though rescuers say the actual number could be 35.

“The upper part of the hotel it’s not there anymore – it’s full of snow inside the different rooms,” said Dr. Gianluca Fachetti, who was part of the rescue teams.

“But there are several floors and we think most part of the people are on the first floor not the second or third, and it’s very difficult but anyway we hope there could be someone still alive,” he added.

Meanwhile, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni urged for national unity, insisting that the country was caught in an “unprecedented vice of frost and earthquakes.”

Moreover, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that the rest of the EU stood ready to help since “an earthquake in Italy is an earthquake in Europe.”

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