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ROME, Italy (CBSMiami) — The alarm was raised by two survivors who managed to get out.
Alpine teams on skis managed to reach the hotel at about 4 a.m. local time Thursday. The mass of cascading snow slammed into the three-story Hotel Rigopiano in darkness, burying the building.
The first report from rescuers was “many dead.”
Inside the hotel, they found a scene of utter destruction as the weight of the snow collapsed the roof down to the ground floor.
Heavy snow hampered ambulances trying to reach the scene, which is deep in the Abruzzo region, popular with tourists. Even snow plows struggled to get through.
A cell phone text exchange believed to be with someone inside the buried building included messages that said, “Be calm, tomorrow you’ll come down” and “I think the earthquake already did what it had to do.”
But another message sent to rescue workers said simply, ‘Help, we’re dying of the cold.”
The region was hit by a series of four strong earthquakes on Wednesday, the biggest of which was 5.7 on the Richter scale.
Multiple aftershocks followed but it’s not clear if they are what triggered the avalanche.
A major quake last August killed nearly 300 people and ruined buildings in historic towns and hamlets. This time, atrocious weather added to a disaster one local resident described as “apocalyptic.”
While the hotel was built to be earthquake-proof, there is no protection against avalanches.