At least 30 dead as avalanche engulfs hotel in Italy

Handout photo issued by Virgili del Fuoco after an avalanche buried the Hotel Rigopiano in Abruzzo.''Picture: Virgili del Fuoco /PA Wire
Handout photo issued by Virgili del Fuoco after an avalanche buried the Hotel Rigopiano in Abruzzo.''Picture: Virgili del Fuoco /PA Wire
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At least 30 people are missing after an avalanche buried a mountain hotel in an earthquake-hit region of central Italy.

The civil protection agency said it was working to get rescue vehicles to the Hotel Rigopiano in Abruzzo through roads covered in snow, joining initial rescue efforts overnight by alpine rescue teams.

The news agency Ansa quoted a rescuer as saying that there were fatalities, but details were not immediately available.

Italian media said the avalanche covered the three-storey hotel on Wednesday. The hotel is about 30 miles (45km) from the coastal city of Pescara.

Mountain rescue teams reached the hotel by skis at around 4am local time (0300 GMT), Sky TG24 reported.

Video footage showed rescuers with shovels digging through a wall of snow, and at least one man being led through the cleared path.

An ambulance was blocked several miles from the hotel, according to Sky.

Earthquakes hit the region on Wednesday, including one with a 5.7 magnitude, but it was not immediately clear if they triggered the avalanche.

The mountainous region of central Italy has been struck by a series of earthquakes since August which destroyed historic sites in dozens of towns and hamlets.

A deadly quake in August killed nearly 300 people, but no-one died in the strong aftershocks in October largely because population centres had already been evacuated.

In the meantime, the entire region has been hit by cold weather and buffeted by snowstorms, piling more suffering on to the hard-hit population.

People left homeless by the earlier quakes had been moved to hotels in the region, but it was not immediately clear who was staying at Hotel Rigopiano, which is located in the Gran Sasso National Park.