Avalanche kills ‘many’ in Italy

Media captionRescuers had to trudge through deep snow on skies

An Italian rescue official has said that a number of people have been killed after a hotel was hit by an avalanche, apparently triggered by an earthquake on Wednesday.

Rescuers battled overnight to reach the hotel close to the Gran Sasso mountain in the Abruzzo region.

“There are many deaths,” Antonio Crocetta, the head of a mountain rescue team, was quoted as saying.

Up to 30 people were in the Rigopiano hotel at the time of the avalanche.

The roof partly collapsed and local residents in Farindola alerted emergency services. But a snowstorm and blocked routes made access to the hotel difficult and Italian media said the first rescuers only reached the hotel on skis at 04:00 (03:00 GMT) on Thursday.

Rescuers said at least 20 tourists and seven staff had been inside the Rigopiano hotel when it was hit by the avalanche.

An ambulance drives in Campotosto village covered with snow
The avalanche was apparently triggered by earthquakes that hit Central Italy on Wednesday

The mountainous region of Central Italy was hit by a succession of four earthquakes on Wednesday and further tremors were reported overnight.

The quakes came after the regions of Abruzzo, Marche and Lazio were hit by days of heavy snow. Many villages became inaccessible and emergency services worked through the night into Thursday to reach them.

It was already known that one person had died and another was reported missing.

The same region was hit by an earthquake on 24 August, when 298 people died.

Map
The USGS tracked at least nine quakes on Wednesday, with the strongest just south of Amatrice.
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