(TIML NEWS) At least one person has died and many others are feared dead after an avalanche buried a hotel in central Italy following a series of earthquakes.
An estimated 30 people are trapped inside the Hotel Rigopiano, which was hit by an avalanche Thursday at the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain, Italy’s Civil Protection Department said.
It based its estimate on guest registration and staff numbers, but said it was possible that some people had escaped before the avalanche hit.
Two others were rescued from the site of the hotel, Civil Protection Department chief Fabrizio Curcio told journalists.
Italian fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari, who is at the scene, said the hotel had been “completely slammed” in the avalanche and debris was scattered as far as 100 meters from the hotel structure, making the search area large.
Curcio explained that dealing with earthquakes and an avalanche at the same time caused difficulties in the rescue operation and even confusion among the affected population over how to respond.
“For the weather, you tell people to stay in their homes, while for the earthquake, citizens must be brought outside. Putting together these two elements is extremely complicated,” he said.
An elderly farmer also died in the same region of Abruzzo on Wednesday when his barn collapsed
Rescuers battled blizzards and strong winds to reach the site, some having to ski for several kilometers in the darkness to get there because some roads were impassable.
When they arrived, they found only the building’s top story and roof visible above the snow, Italy’s Mountain Rescue Service said on social media. It also posted a picture of rescuers digging for survivors.
While the epicenter was 90 kilometers northeast of Rome, the quake was felt in the capital, sending people running from buildings in a panic.