Desperate guests trapped inside an Italian hotel have been sending texts to loved-ones after the building was crushed by a huge avalanche killing up to 30 people.
One message, believed to have been sent from the four-star Hotel Rigopiano, said ‘Help, help, we are dying of the cold’ while another, sent from outside, urged those still caught inside to ‘be calm’.
Other trapped guests are reported to have sent texts directly to emergency services with phone lines in rooms said to have been cut off by the force of the avalanche.
The hotel, in the remote village of Farindola, was crushed under a 6ft wall of snow yesterday as four earthquakes hit the central Italian region of Abruzzo.
Mountain emergency crews using cross country skis trekked six miles through the night to reach the hotel, battling through 15ft of snow which has fallen in a matter of days.
There are reports this morning that as many as 30 people – guests and staff – are missing after thousands of tonnes of snow engulfed the three-storey hotel, causing part of it to collapse and shifting the building 30ft. Two have been rescued so far.
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Up to 30 people are feared dead after an Italian ski hotel was buried by an avalanche during a series of earthquakes
Dramatic pictures from inside the hotel show how part of the building collapsed under the weight of the avalanche
Shocking images from inside the hotel show how snow had cascaded down stairways and corridors
Up to 30 people are feared to have been killed after an Italian ski hotel was buried by an avalanche during a series of earthquakes
There are reports this morning that as many as 30 people – guests and staff- are missing after the avalanche crashed in to the three-storey hotel, shifting it up to 30ft
A man is escorted by Alpine policemen and a fireman outside the Hotel Rigopiano, near the village of Farindola
Rescue teams are still battling to access the hotel – a task made more difficult by huge snow drifts in the area
Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said there had been around 30 guests and staff at the hotel on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain
According to Sky, One text message sent to someone inside the hotel said: ‘They are extracting them from the hotel, and bringing them to hospitals, I think. But I don’t know because it is impossible for us to go up. I am sorry.’
Earlier, it emerged that a father had survived the tragedy because he left to get something from his car when the avalanche hit the building. But he told doctors the wall of snow had buried his wife and two children.
Giampaolo Parete, 38, believed to be a chef, was one of two people rescued from the three-storey hotel.
Parete’s boss, restaurant owner, Quintino Marcella, said he received a phone call at 5.30pm yesterday from the chef who was on vacation at the hotel.
‘He calls me and says “Help me, an avalanche has hit and the hotel isn’t there anymore. It’s disappeared. It’s buried. Two of us are here but call rescue crews.”‘
Marcella said he immediately called police and the prefecture’s emergency coordination centre, but the prefect’s office assured him that the hotel had phoned two or three hours earlier reporting everything was OK.
Rescuers, who have begun extracting bodies after battling through blizzard conditions to reach the hotel on skis or by helicopter, say there were no signs of life inside the building
Rescuers have started the grim task of excavating snow from the interior of the building
Emergency crews were eventually able to fund a way in to the Hotel Rigopiano, which has been crushed by an avalanche
Separate aerial video shows how a column of rescue vehicles attempting to reach the remote community had become completely stuck in huge snow drifts
A rescue convoy became stuck in snow drifts as emergency crews scrambled to reach the village
The hotel is located around 55 miles from the epicentre of the earthquakes yesterday
Marcella said he frantically tried to call other emergency numbers but no one took him seriously. Speaking on Sky TG24, he said only hours later, after 8pm, did the response begin.
He said his chef kept saying ‘Help, help, help, help.’
Rescuers, who have begun extracting bodies after battling through blizzard conditions to reach the hotel on skis or by helicopter, say there were no signs of life inside the building.
An aerial shot of the hotel released by the fire brigade showed just the last floor and the roof visible above a thick blanket of snow. Initial television pictures showed that mounds of snow and debris had smashed through a hotel wall into the lobby.
Haunting footage also shows how piles of snow and rubble had cascaded down stairways. The audio was silent.
The largest wall of snow shown was in the pool area, where plastic lounge chairs were flipped on their sides and Christmas decorations still dangled from the ceiling.
The bar area appeared flooded, with nearby cracked skylights covered with snow outside.
Separate aerial video shows how a column of rescue vehicles attempting to reach the remote community had become completely stuck in huge snow drifts.
Pictures emerging from the scene show how rescuers are having to contend with mountains of snow
Rescuers used shovels as they attempted to clear a pathway to the hotel where dozens are feared to have been buried
Rescue teams had to trek for six miles using cross country skis to reach Hotel Rigopiano, in the remote village of Farindola, in the Abruzzo region, which has been hit by heavy snowfall in the last week
Twenty firemen, two mountain rescue teams, six ambulances and local police were heading for the site last night, but the weather conditions were expected to cause major delays, a civil protection agency spokesman said
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni today urged authorities to redouble efforts to reach people isolated by the earthquakes and unusually heavy snow, as he sought to deflect criticism of the rescue efforts.
Gentiloni told reporters Thursday that the priority is to reach all isolated towns and hamlets that have been buried under snowfall for days and then jolted by four powerful quakes on Wednesday.
Residents have been complaining for days that they have been without electricity because of what Gentiloni called a ‘record snowfall.’ Criticism has also come in about the response time to reach a hotel buried under an avalanche.
Gentiloni said: ‘I ask everyone if possible to multiply their efforts. I ask politicians to show sobriety respecting the difficulty of the situation and the commitment of civil and military crews who are responding.’
The head of the Italy’s civil protection authority, Fabrizio Curcio, says that authorities are confronting ‘two exceptional events that that already alone would have created great difficulty in the response.’
For the heavy snowfall, Curcio said: ‘We try to tell people to stay in their own homes, if they are secure, obviously. And in the areas of quakes, people should leave their homes. Putting together these two elements is extremely complicated.’
Mountain rescue teams reached the hotel by skis at around 4am local time, Sky TG24 reported.
An ambulance was blocked several miles from the hotel, according to Sky, while footage showed emergency services helicopters in the air near the scene
Several news websites quoted the president of the province as writing on social media that an avalanche had hit the Hotel Rigopiano, saying it was buried in snow (file photo)
Blizzards in the area were hampering rescue operations as helicopters were brought in
Video footage showed rescuers with shovels digging through a wall of snow, and at least one man being led through the cleared path. An ambulance was blocked several miles from the hotel, according to Sky, while footage showed emergency services helicopters in the air near the scene.
Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said there had been around 30 guests and staff at the hotel on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain.
It said it could not immediately confirm any deaths out of respect for the families of the guests and staff.
Antonio Di Marco, president of the province of Pescara, which includes the mountain village of Farindola, said two people had been saved.
‘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
Rescuers have been facing tough conditions as they attempt to reach the scene of the avalanche
Video footage showed rescuers with shovels digging through a wall of snow, and at least one man being led through the cleared path
Tractors with snowploughs are being used in a desperate bid to clear roads in the area
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.
The region was hit by four seismic shocks measuring above five magnitude in the space of four hours on Wednesday, with at least one person confirmed dead.
The hotel is located around 55 miles from the epicentre of the quakes.
Twenty firemen, two mountain rescue teams, six ambulances and local police were heading for the site last night, but the weather conditions were expected to cause major delays, a civil protection agency spokesman said.
EUROPE’S DEADLY AVALANCHES
Avalanches are a recurring threat in Europe’s mountain ranges, and have claimed dozens of lives in the past 20 years:
– 2016 –
FRANCE: Six deaths
Six French legionnaires on a training mission in the Cerces range near the Italian border died on January 18 when they were caught at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet.
ITALY: Six deaths
Five Italians and an Austrian who were mountain climbing died on March 12 when a 300 yard snowslide swept them away at an altitude of more than 10,800ft in the Monte Nevoso region near the border with Austria.
– 2015 –
FRANCE: 13 deaths
Four French men and two women were ski touring on January 24 in the Queyras range in eastern France when they were killed by an avalanche.
And on September 15 four Germans and three Czechs who were climbing in three teams died when an avalanche broke loose on the Dome de Neige des Écrins, a 13,170-foot peak in the French Alps. The summit is popular with tourists because it is readily accessible.
– 2012 –
FRANCE: Nine deaths
Nine climbers from Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland were killed on July 12 as they tried to scale the north face of Mont Maudit in the Mont-Blanc range in the French Alps.
– 2002 –
RUSSIA: 127 deaths
On September 20, a huge mass of rock and ice broke off a glacier and crushed the village of Nizhny Karmadon in the Caucasian republic of North Ossetia, leaving 127 people dead or missing. They included Sergei Bodrov junior, son of a prominent Russian director of the same name, who was filming with a crew when the disaster struck.
The glacier lies at an altitude of more than 8,000 ft between two peaks, Mount Kazbek 6,500 ft and the Elbruz 18,480 ft. The region’s president said millions of cubic metres of ice had cascaded over a distance of 20 miles.
– 2000 –
AUSTRIA: 12 deaths
On March 28, an avalanche killed 11 young ski instructors and a snow surfer on the Kitzsteinhorn, 50 miles southeast of Salzbourg.
– 1999 –
AUSTRIA: 38 deaths
A huge avalanche buried several houses and killed 31 people at the Galtuer ski area in western Austria’s Tyrol region on February 23. The next day, another slide killed seven more people in the nearby village of Valzur.
FRANCE: 12 deaths
On February 9, an avalanche swept away around 20 chalets near the village of Tour, in the Chamonix valley near Mont Blanc, killing 12 people.
– 1998 –
FRANCE: 11 deaths
Nine teenagers, a teacher and an instructor were killed as they were snow-shoeing on January 23 at an altitude of 7,200 ft near the Orres ski area in the southern French Alps.
Italy was hit by four earthquakes in four hours on Wednesday, killing one and bringing terror to snowbound mountain areas still recovering from last year’s series of deadly tremors.
The quakes, all measuring more than five magnitude, struck close to Amatrice, the mountain town devastated by an August earthquake that left nearly 300 people dead.
The body of one victim was found under the debris of a building in the town of Castel Castagna, in the province of Teramo, local authorities said in a statement.
And as night fell and temperatures plummeted, fears mounted for isolated residents of remote hamlets cut off by heavy snowfall, while more than 130,000 homes were without electricity.
A mother and child dragged from the ruins of a collapsed country cottage near Teramo in the Abruzzo region were both found to be suffering from hypothermia.
Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said there had been around 30 guests and staff at the Hotel Rigopiano on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain when the first of four powerful quakes hit the region on Wednesday morning
Antonio Di Marco, president of the province of Pescara, which includes the mountain village of Farindola where the hotel is located, said two people had been saved
The region was hit by four seismic shocks measuring above five magnitude in the space of four hours on Wednesday, with at least one person confirmed dead
Shortly before dusk, Nello Patrizi, a farmer in Montereale, south of Amatrice, was out with his dog, trying to check on cows knee-deep in snow.
‘It was an apocalyptic shock. We were petrified,’ the 63-year-old told AFP.
‘The first one was bad enough, the others seemed even stronger. You had the impression everything was collapsing, people were screaming.
‘With all the snow there was this morning, people could not get out of their houses. I thought ‘all we need now is an earthquake’ and here it is.’
Fabio di Gianfrancesco, 55, drove from Rome to another hamlet, Aringo, to check on elderly relatives.
‘They were trapped in the house because of the snow,’ he said. ‘We got them out and then helped the last 10 or so residents here to leave.’
Around 160 people were preparing to spend the night under the canvas of a giant tent on a local sports field.
Wednesday’s first shock struck at 10.25 am local time.
A hotel in central Italy was hit by an avalanche on Wednesday, and rescuers are trying to ascertain whether there are any victims, Italian media reported
Three people were believed missing after the avalanche hit the hotel in Pescara, a province in the Abruzzo region
Four strong earthquakes have shaken the same region of central Italy that suffered deadly tremors last year, and could have had an affect on the avalanche
As night fell and temperatures plummeted, fears mounted for isolated residents of remote hamlets cut off by heavy snowfall, while more than 130,000 homes were without electricity
Monitors put its strength at between 5.1 and 5.3 magnitude. A second, 50 minutes later, was measured between 5.4 and 5.7.
A third, minutes later, measured 5.3, while one of more than 100 major aftershocks was measured at 5.1 at 2.30 pm.
The tremors were felt powerfully across the Abruzzo, Lazio and Marche regions and clearly in Rome, over 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.
Residents of Aquila, where over 300 people died in a 2009 earthquake, rushed into the snow-covered streets in panic but the city suffered little damage.
Avalanche warnings were issued across a region that has a number of ski resorts and a highest peak, Gran Sasso, at 2,912 metres (9,554 feet).
In Amatrice, the belltower of the 15th Century Church of Sant’Agostino collapsed. It had been damaged by the first of the earthquakes which struck the mountainous centre of the country between August and October last year.
Shell-shocked residents from the village of Montereale arrive to set up for the night in a large tent on a nearby sports ground
Road block: Thick snow covering earthquake hit areas of Colledara in Italy have been hampering rescue operations
Most of those who died in that quake were in the town, a beauty spot which was packed with holidaymakers at the height of the summer season.
Two further quakes rattled the region in October, with the most powerful measuring 6.5 magnitude.
Amatrice mayor Sergio Pirozzi cursed his town’s bad luck.
‘I don’t know if we did something bad. That’s what I have been asking since yesterday. We have got up to two metres of snow and now another earthquake!’
Stefano Petrucci, mayor of nearby Accumoli, said roads were unpassable and bemoaned a shortage of clearance trucks. ‘We can’t fight a war with bows and arrows.’
The affected area is thinly populated and thousands of residents were evacuated last year pending reconstruction of their homes.
The last of the 2016 quakes, on October 30, was the most powerful since a 6.9 magnitude one struck near Naples in southern Italy in 1980, leaving 3,000 people dead.
Much of the country’s land mass and some of its surrounding waters are prone to seismic activity with the highest risk concentrated along its mountainous central spine.
Italy straddles the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, making it vulnerable when they move.
The worst disaster of the 20th century was in 1908 when an estimated 95,000 died in tidal waves following a quake in the sea between mainland Italy and Sicily.