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Dozens feared dead in Italy hotel avalanche

Rescue workers report no signs of life

UPDATE: Ten people have been found alive after rescuers discovered a small group of people sheltering in a bedroom that hadn't been crushed by snow.


A huge avalanche in Italy has buried a luxury hotel along with around 30 people. While two bodies have been recovered from the site, grave fears remain for those still trapped inside, who have not answered the shouts of rescue workers.


Thanks to Hotel Rigopiano’s remote location in the Gran Sasso range in Central Italy, it took emergency crew some two hours to reach the hotel on skis.


Image Reuters


But the boss of one of the two survivors of the accident, who had been called by his employee immediately after the event, said his pleas for help had also gone ignored for “hours”, Associated Press reported.


“He said the hotel was submerged and to call rescue crews,” Quintino Marcella told AP. But neither the police or Pescara prefect's office believed him.


“The prefect's office said it wasn't true, because everything was OK at the hotel.”


There were also reports of hotel guests messaging rescuers and friends before a rescue crew was finally mobilised at 8pm, more than two hours after the event.


Marcella’s employee, chef Giampiero Parete, had ducked out to his car to pick up some medicine for his wife when the avalanche struck. His two children were also inside the building. Italian media identified the other survivor as hotel janitor Fabio Salzetta.


National Alpine rescue corps spokesman Walter Milan told reporters uprooted trees and rocks on the road as well as bad weather had hampered rescue efforts.


“There is a lot of snow but I have to say that our work is going on quickly considering the size of the avalanche,” he said.


The 300-metre-wide snow slide came after four big earthquakes struck the region on Wednesday, although it is not clear if any of the jolts triggered the avalanche.


Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 20 January 2017

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