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Residents describe Italy avalanche as rescuers worry

Hopes are dwindling over 24 hours after an avalanche struck a luxury mountain hotel in Italy, burying at least 30 people under tons of snow and debris. So far, rescue authorities say they have recovered just two bodies.

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Many missing after avalanche hits Italian hotel

Rescuers report no signs of life at a hotel buried by an avalanche in Italy. The Civil Protection agency's chief said the search for at least 30 victims and possible survivors would continue through Thursday night.

"There is always hope," Fabrizio Curcio said on Thursday. "If there were no hope, the rescuers wouldn't give everything they've got."

Two men survived. "I am alive because I went to get something from my car," Giampiero Parete told medical staff who treated him for hypothermia. Italian media reported that his wife and two children, thought to be Romanian citizens, remain missing.

The avalanche pushed the 43-room hotel 10 meters (33 feet) down the mountain. A resident described the avalanche for DW.

Four earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher hit the Abruzzo region Wednesday. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni says Italy, which straddles the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, has fallen into an "unprecedented vice" of earthquakes. An earthquake in Amatrice in August killed nearly 300 people.

Nine of 47,000 aftershocks have measured a magnitude of at least 5. No one has died in the strong aftershocks, but many residents have also abandoned population centers.

'Don't really know'

Authorities urged patience as the recovery team responds to the tragic avalanche in Farindola. "We can confirm one survivor, but others may be trapped inside," a national fire rescue spokesman told DW. "We don't really know how many may be dead or alive at the moment. We are moving forward with rescue operations despite snowfall."

Titti Postiglione, head of the department's emergency office, said more snow could fall from peaks in the 2,912-meter Gran Sasso mountain range in the central Abruzzo region as the temperature rose, and that further quakes also remained possible. "This is an enormously complex rescue operation," she said.

The deep snow that has fallen on the Gran Sasso in recent days has hampered the effort. Drifts made snow as deep as 5 meters in some places, and snow ploughs have struggled to cut a path up winding mountain roads.

The first rescuers arrived at 4:30 a.m. (0330 UTC), after having to ski 7 kilometers (11.5 miles) through a blizzard to reach the site. After dawn broke, emergency services sent in helicopters.

"This is a tragedy of enormous proportions," Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said.

mkg/kl (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

 

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