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Rescuers search for 30 after avalanche hits Italian hotel

Published:Thursday | January 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM
An aerial view of the Rigopiano Hotel hit by an avalanche in Farindola, Italy, early yesterday.


Rescue workers reported no signs of life Thursday at a four-star hotel buried by an avalanche in the mountains of earthquake-stricken central Italy. Two bodies were recovered of the estimated 30 people trapped inside as the risk of more avalanches slowed the search effort.

Two people escaped the devastation at the Hotel Rigopiano, in the mountains of the Gran Sasso range, and called for help, but it took hours for responders to reach the remote zone on skis.

Days of heavy snowfall had knocked out electricity and phone lines in many central Italian towns and hamlets, and four powerful earthquakes struck the region on Wednesday.

It wasn't immediately clear if any of the quakes triggered the avalanche. But firefighters said the sheer violence of the 300-yard-wide (meter) snow slide on Wednesday uprooted trees in its wake and wiped out parts of the hotel.

"There are mattresses that are hundreds of meters away from where the building was," firefighters' spokesman Luca Cari told the ANSA news agency.

The hotel in the Abruzzo region is about 30 miles (45 kilometres) from the coastal city of Pescara, at an altitude of about 3,940 feet (1,200 meters). The area, which has been buried under as much as nine feet (three meters) of snowfall for days, is located in the broad swath of central Italy between Rieti and Teramo that was jolted by Wednesday's quakes, one of which had a 5.7 magnitude.