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30 missing after avalanche buries hotel in Italy

30 missing after avalanche buries hotel in Italy

Up to 30 people are missing, with many feared dead, after an avalanche struck a ski resort in central Italy Wednesday evening. The avalanche pushed the Hotel Rigopiano 30 feet from its foundation and buried it in snow, causing the roof to collapse under its weight. Rescue workers were forced to use skis to reach the hotel, located in the country’s mountainous Abruzzo region, as the surrounding roads were blocked by mounds of snow. 

Initial estimates had 20-30 people staying at the resort when the avalanche hit, and at least one body has been retrieved from the scene, the Guardian reported. Authorities have said that at least two children were staying at the resort. It is not yet clear if anyone has been rescued from the building, but several reports say that at least two men escaped the snowslide.

Central Italy was hit by four earthquakes on Wednesday, which measured between 5.1 and 5.7 in magnitude. The quakes centered around the L’Aquila region of Italy, but tremors were felt as far away as Rome. Such a quake is believed to have triggered Wednesday night’s avalanche.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that those trapped inside the hotel sent text messages to loved ones, including a message that read: “Help, help, we are dying of the cold.” Antonio Crocetta, the leader of a mountain rescue team, told the Italian daily Thursday morning that “there are many deaths.”

Residents in central Italy have grown accustom to such natural disasters in recent years – last year nearly 300 people were killed by an earthquake in Amatrice, while in 2009 about 300 died when a quake struck the town of L’Aquila. The country experienced roughly 250 earthquakes in 2016, and scientists expect more to come in the near-term future. 

Cover: Sipa USA via AP

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