Many feared dead at Italian ski hotel due to avalanche

Pescara (Italy), Jan 19 (IANS/AKI) Dozens of people, including children, are feared to have died in Italy’s quake-hit central Abruzzo region after an avalanche buried a hotel in the ski resort of Farindola.

Rescuers skied cross-country through the night to reach the snowbound hotel Rigopiano after the avalanche struck late on Tuesday and pulled out the lifeless body of a male member of staff.

The four-star hotel was crushed under a two-metre wall of snow after the avalanche, which was triggered by four strong earthquakes that rocked central Italy’s mountainous spine.

The avalanche was “massive, of vast dimensions,” rescuers at the scene told Adnkronos.

There were fears on Wednesday for 30 people – guests and staff – who were missing after thousands of tonnes of snow engulfed the three-storey hotel, causing part of it to collapse.

Dramatic pictures showed how the avalanche shifted the hotel 10 metres. Farindola is located at 1,200 metres in the Gran Sasso national park and was cut-off after days of heavy snowfall and Tuesday’s quakes.

One message, believed to have been sent from the Rigopiano, read: “Help, help, we are dying of cold,”. Another, sent from outside, urged people caught inside the hotel to “keep calm”.

“All the institutions of the State have been mobilised, civilian and military,” Italy’s Premier Paolo Gentiloni told civil protection staff in Rieti in the Lazio region, which has also hit by Tuesday’s earthquakes.