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Avalanche in Italy Buries Hotel, Leaving up to 30 Missing


An aerial view of Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, on Thursday. Credit Italian Fire Department, via European Pressphoto Agency

ROME — An avalanche has buried a mountainside hotel in central Italy, and civil protection services said on Thursday that as many as 30 people were missing, citing local officials.

The avalanche came after four earthquakes struck the region on Wednesday, the latest in a series of temblors in the area, prompting officials to close schools and the subway system in Rome, about 100 miles to the southwest, as a precaution.

Fabrizio Curcio, the chief of the civil protection department, told RAI News that search-and-rescue teams had reached the hotel but that the situation there was difficult. Rescue workers, including dog units, were “planning how to intervene,” he said, but other emergency-response teams had reported no signs of survivors.

News channels in Italy showed images of the roof collapsed on the hotel, the Rigopiano, although it was not clear if the structural damage had been caused by the earthquakes or by the avalanche.

Other images showed corridors piled high with snow, leaves and branches, and rescue workers digging through the snow and carrying at least one person to safety.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the rescue effort presented officials with “unprecedented” difficulties, describing the area as caught in a vise after intense snowfall “that hadn’t been recorded for decades,” and the strong earthquakes in the area on Wednesday.

The epicenters of the four earthquakes were in central Italy, which has been hit by deadly quakes with increasing frequency in recent years. Officials registered more than 100 aftershocks on Wednesday.

Sky TG24 television said that at least two people had died at the Rigopiano, which is described on its website as a “posh mountainside hotel resort with spa” in the town of Farindola, nestled in the mountains.


Search for Survivors After Avalanche in Italy

An avalanche has buried a mountainside hotel in central Italy. Corridors were piled high with snow, leaves and branches, and rescue workers dug through the snow, looking for survivors.

Photo by Italian Fire Department, via European Pressphoto Agency. Watch in Times Video »

There were fears that the death toll would rise significantly. In a message on social media, the Fire Department, which is involved in rescue efforts, said that firefighters had arrived at the hotel but “at the moment, no signals from the missing.”

Emergency vehicles tried to assist Alpine rescue teams in the region, part of the Gran Sasso National Park, but rescue efforts were hampered by heavy snow on roads, the civil protection agency said.

Francesco Provolo, the prefect of Pescara, the province that includes Farindola, told RAI that rescuers had to travel more than five miles on skis and snowshoes to reach the hotel, as billowing snow continued to fall throughout the night.

A spokesman for the civil protection department in Pescara had estimated that up to 30 people were in the hotel at the time of the avalanche. The four-star hotel has 43 rooms, but it was not clear how many guests were staying there at the time of the avalanche.

Mr. Gentiloni praised the courage of rescue workers trying to reach the hotel, and he said the country’s “heart and mind” were closely following their efforts.

He called on the country’s civil protection department, army and rescue teams working to reach people in isolated hamlets throughout central Italy to redouble their efforts.

“Everyone is doing as much as they can” to reach people, clear roads and bring electricity to areas that have been cut off for days, the prime minister said. “But I ask all operators to increase their commitment. They have shown that they exist, are present, and are working — but I ask them, if possible, to do even more.”

Three quakes in central Italy last year killed nearly 300 people in and around the medieval town of Amatrice; on Wednesday, the tower of one of that town’s churches was destroyed by temblors.

In 2009, the town of L’Aquila was devastated by an earthquake that killed more than 300 people.

Source: NYT > World

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