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'No signs of life' at Italian hotel as 30 feared dead after massive avalanche

At least two bodies have been removed from the hotel, but bad weather conditions are slowing rescue efforts.

Updated, 9pm

RESCUE WORKERS REPORTED no signs of life 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 in the earthquake-ravaged centre of the country.

Italy’s Civil Protection agency confirmed the Hotel Rigopiano had been engulfed by a six foot high wall of snow and that emergency services were struggling to get ambulances and diggers to the site.

The agency 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 yesterday morning.

Local media said specialist mountain police who had reached the hotel on skis or by helicopter had begun extracting bodies.

“There are many dead,” one of the commanding officers, Antonio Crocetta, was quoted as saying.

The rescuers at the hotel were reported to have a snow mobile capable of transporting up to eight people.

Ambulances were blocked by two metres of snow some nine kilometres away, according to the civil protection agency.

Antonio Di Marco, president of the province of Pescara, which includes the mountain village of Farindola, close to where the hotel is located, said two people had been found alive.

“We don’t know yet how many people are unaccounted for or dead,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“What is certain is that the building took a direct hit from the avalanche, to the point that it was moved by 10 metres.”

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.

Hypothermia

It was not clear if the two confirmed survivors had been at the hotel or had been out skiing when the avalanche occurred.

One of them was helicoptered to a hospital in Pescara suffering from hypothermia but was not in a life-threatening condition.

The region was hit by four seismic shocks measuring above five magnitude in the space of four hours on Wednesday, when at least one person was confirmed to have died.

The hotel is located around 90 kilometres from the epicentre of the quakes at Montereale, a small village south of Amatrice, the town devastated in an August earthquake in which nearly 300 people died.

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Avalanche warnings were issued across the region which is dominated by Gran Sasso, a majestic 2,912 metres peak. The area has numerous small ski resorts popular with day-trippers from Rome and urban centres on Italy’s east coast.

One person was confirmed dead yesterday after a body was found under the debris of a building in Castel Castagna, a small town to the north of Farindola.

The quake affected an area that straddles the regions of Lazio, Marche and Abruzzo which is home to many remote mountain hamlets.

Although many residents had been evacuated after last year’s quakes, there were fears for families who had decided to stay in their homes and are now cut off.

Some 130,000 homes were without electricity overnight as a result of quake-damage to pylons and other infrastructure.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that Irish citizens in the area should follow the advice of local authorities and let their family know that they’re safe and well.

They added in a statement that “there are no indications of any Irish citizens being involved”.

With reporting from Sean Murray

© – AFP, 2017

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