A full-scale operation is underway, over 7,000 people worked through the night, digging through towering mounds of snow and debris in search of survivors Friday after a mountain hotel [at the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain about 85 miles (135 kilometres) northeast of Rome] was buried by an avalanche after a series of earthquakes hit the region, including one with a strong 5.7 magnitude on Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 18).
The avalanche covered a four-star spa hotel, Rigopiano in a mountainous earthquake-hit region of central Italy. At least twenty tourists and seven members of the hotel are believed to have been inside the Hotel Rigopiano when it was swallowed by an avalanche on Wednesday night.
Ten survivors have been found alive including a young boy (wearing a blue sweatshirt from a hole that they had cut in the submerged roof with a power saw), who had trapped almost 40 hours inside the hotel under 5 meters (16 feet) of snow (except the sections of the spa and swimming area) after the avalanche hit. The ten survivors who are found alive under the debris are three men, three women and two children, according to the reports.
A little later the young boy’s mother was pulled out. Both were strapped into stretchers so they could be flown to hospital by helicopter. Luca Cari (a spokesman for the national fire brigade) said they appeared to be in good condition.
“We found five people alive. We’re pulling them out. Send us a helicopter,” a rescuer said over firefighters’ radio. “They are alive and we are talking to them” Luca Cari, a spokesman for the national fire brigade told Reuters by phone from the scene. Ten survivors were later found.
It’s not yet clear what caused a deadly avalanche in Italy on Wednesday (Jan. 18). In contrast, the Italy avalanche may have happened up to 2 hours after the last major earthquake, according to news reports. [The 10 Biggest Earthquakes in History]
Four people have been found dead at the hotel site so far, officials said two bodies had been removed from the site while Italian media said two other corpses had been located. Two other people were rescued on Thursday (January 19), but the heavy snow made initial rescue operations difficult. Weather conditions have since improved.
Snow-storms that have obstructed phone lines and knocked out electricity and blocked roads, isolating towns and villages.