Italy // Up to 30 people might be buried under the snow in avalanche-hit hotel after quake
An avalanche hit a small hotel in the mountains of central Italy overnight after a series of strong earthquakes in the area, and up to 30 people might be buried under the snow, officials said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
"There are many dead," Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police coordinating the rescue effort was quoted as saying after an advance party reached the hotel following a 10-kilometre cross country trek on skis.
Italy's Civil Protection Agency said there had been around 30 guests and staff at the Hotel Rigopiano on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain when the first of four powerful quakes hit the region on Wednesday morning.
It said it could not immediately confirm any deaths out of respect for the families of the guests and staff, with the rescue operation hampered by up to 5 metres of snow which has fallen on the Gran Sasso mountain range in the central Abruzzo region in recent days.
"We’re dropping our rescue units down by helicopter and they are starting to dig," said Luca Cari, spokesman for the national fire brigades.
Antonio Di Marco, president of the province of Pescara, which includes the mountain village of Farindola where the hotel is located, said two people had been saved.
"We don't know yet how many people are unaccounted for or dead. What is certain is that the building took a direct hit from the avalanche, to the point that it was moved by 10 metres," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Farindola mayor Ilario Lacchetta said on his Facebook page that "the dimensions of the avalanche were huge.
"It took the whole hotel with it." he said.
The region was hit by four seismic shocks measuring above five magnitude in the space of four hours on Wednesday, with at least one person confirmed dead.
The hotel is located around 90 kilometres from the epicentre of the quakes.