On Wednesday January, 18 an avalanche hit a small resort hotel in the Apennine Mountains after four earthquakes struck central Italy. Francesco Provolo, the prefect of nearby Pescara said “rescuers had to travel more than five miles on skis and snowshoes to reach the hotel” as prior to the earthquakes, there had been heavy snowfall, with drifts as deep as five meters in places, complicating rescue efforts. Nine people were pulled out alive on the Friday after the avalanche, as well as three puppies five days after the initial incident. By Thursday, January 26, rescuers announced they had stopped the search. The final toll stood at 29 dead, and 11 people rescued alive. Nine of those rescued were inside the hotel at the time of the avalanche and two more took shelter in a car. Judiciary authorities have announced that the majority of victims died due to the impact of the avalanche.
This has been the latest in a series of earthquakes in central Italy. Nearly 300 people were killed by a quake the previous year in Amatrice, and over 300 were killed by an earthquake in 2009 in L’Aquila, both in central Italy. The most recent quake this January led to closing the subway system and school in Rome, but hit the areas in central Italy “that were devastated by last year’s earthquakes, leading victims had been left to fend for themselves.” There have been a number of questions raised about this incident as a result. The hotel’s director called for assistance a few hours before the avalanche hit, as the roads were blocked because of the snow and many phones were out of service. The initial calls for help were dismissed as a hoax, and emergency vehicles were not deployed until almost two hours after the avalanche struck. Consequently, an investigation has been opened into whether more could or should have been done to prevent this disaster. Investigators in Pescara have also opened an investigation to determine whether the hotel should have been built in that area, as well as whether it should have been evacuated.
For more information, see our post on the 2016 earthquakes in Italy.
“Avalanche victims ‘died of impact, not hypothermia’” – The Local (Italy)
“Italy avalanche: Hotel search ends with 29 dead, 11 rescued” – CNN
“Avalanche in Italy Buries Hotel, Leaving up to 30 Missing” – The New York Times
“Italian avalanche: hope for survivors after three puppies found alive in rubble” – The Guardian
“Avalanche destroys Italian hotel, up to 30 feared dead under snow” – CNBC