Many dead in avalanche-hit hotel after Italy quake

Penne: At least 25 people, including several children, were feared dead Thursday after a devastating avalanche buried an Italian mountain hotel under snow and mud.
As night fell, the prospects of anyone being rescued alive from the ill-fated Hotel Rigopiano looked bleak, with rescue efforts hampered by heavy snow that had blocked access roads to the remote site.
The hotel was engulfed by a two-metre high wall of snow late on Wednesday afternoon with the impact powerful enough to rip the three-storey building from its foundations and move it ten metres.
The first rescue workers only reached the remote site in the early hours of Thursday and it was midday by the time a snow plough and the first mechanical excavation equipment got there.
Two bodies were extracted from the rubble and two survivors were taken to hospital with hypothermia as frantic rescue efforts continued into the evening.
“We are trying to recover bodies,” said fire service spokesman Luca Cari. Asked if there was any hope of survivors, he said: “You never know.” He added: “The building was basically run over by the avalanche leaving it buried.
“I saw mattresses that had been dragged for hundreds of metres, which shows how big the search area is. There are tonnes of snow, tree trunks and all kinds of detritus.”
Italian broadcasters showed images of piles of masonry and rubble in the entrance area of what they dubbed a “coffin hotel”.
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. Quake experts said the tremors almost certainly triggered the snowslide.
The hotel’s guests had been assembled on the ground floor awaiting an evacuation following the quakes that was delayed by snow-blocked roads when the avalanche struck.
Local officials confirmed two guests who were not inside when the avalanche struck had been rescued. They were suffering from hypothermia but not in any danger.
One of them, identified as Giampiero Parete, 38, was quoted by friends in Italian media as saying his wife and two children, a girl aged six and and a boy aged eight, had been inside the hotel.
Officials said there had been between 20 and 22 guests staying and seven or eight staff on duty at the hotel on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain. It was unclear if there were any additional people in the hotel.
The first mountain police on the scene got there by helicopter around 0300 GMT with others following on skis.
They reported no signs of life inside the building and one of their commanding officers told reporters: “There are many dead.” — AFP