After a severe earthquake struck Central Italy, a massive avalanche buried a posh mountain hotel, with up to 30 people feared to be buried under tons of snow.
Italy’s civil protection chief Fabrizio Curcio said on Thursday, “Around 30 people are unaccounted for, between guests and workers at the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola.”
In the middle of a frigid snowstorm, the rescue team reached the isolated four-star mountain hotel which can only be reached by skis. The rescuers found the four-storey hotel submerged in debris and snow.
“The structure has collapsed. It’s more like a pile of rubble than a hotel,” said Antonio Crocetta, a member of the Alpine Rescue squad, told Reuters.
“What is left of the hotel is in danger of collapse. The hotel is almost completely destroyed. We’ve called out but we’ve heard no replies, no voices. We’re digging and looking for people,” Crocetta added.
The hotel is situated nearly 12,000 feet (4,000 M) above sea level. The avalanche buried the hotel in deep snow, and after 12 hours only two survivors were found.
“I am alive because I went to get something from my car,” a survivor told La Repubblica, a local news agency.
The destructive avalanche came from the Gran Sasso mountain range located at Central Abruzzo Region. The massive snow also blocked an access road near the area.
The rescue team set-up their base camp in the town of Penne, where ambulances patiently waited for snow sweeper vehicles to clear the road going to the hotel.
The avalanche happened hours after a series of strong 5.7 magnitude earthquakes hit Central Italy. The first rescue team arrived around 4:30 AM local time. The team had to ski through the snowstorm to reach the site. Hours later, authorities sent helicopters to help with the rescue operation.
See Related Story: Ten Earthquakes Hammer Italy in Four Hour Span
“We’re dropping our rescue units down by helicopter and they are starting to dig,” Luca Cari, spokesman for the national fire brigade, told Reuters.
The fire brigade released an aerial photo showing the luxurious hotel buried in a mountain of snow.