Rubble and snow cover the luxury Hotel Rigopiano in Italy, where more than 30 people were staying when an avalanche came crashing on the site on Wednesday afternoon. Rescuers are still hopeful as they search for survivors.
Experts are now looking into the cause of the massive avalanche, and if the earthquake that occurred mere hours before the mishap had caused a chain reaction.
So far, two bodies have been recovered from the site, and about 10 individuals have already been rescued. But others are feared trapped inside the ruins of the hotel.
One of the survivors, whose wife and two children are still missing, survived because he was outside the hotel to get something from his car when the avalanche hit.
Earthquakes And Subsequent Avalanche
Early on that day, Italy experienced more than four earthquakes above magnitude 5.0 followed by more than a hundred aftershocks throughout the day. Because of the event, guests and staff of Hotel Rigopiano had gathered on the first level of the hotel to await evacuation. It was a few hours after the quake, just when the guests were ready to leave, that the avalanche happened.
Two of the hotel’s three floors were pummeled, leaving the remaining guests and staff trapped in the building.
The threat of more aftershocks and the massive amount of snow gave the rescuers a difficult time in their search. Calls being made in the area of the hotel to check for other survivors have also gone unanswered.
Did Italy’s Earthquake Trigger The Avalanche?
Italy is no stranger to earthquakes, and it has been known that, in certain cases, earthquakes do trigger avalanches. But the question now is if it was the earthquake or the heavy snowfall that caused the tragedy.
The region of Italy where the hotel is located had, in fact, been experiencing heavy snowfall in the days and hours leading up to the avalanche. In the last tweet posted by staff on the hotel’s official account, the hotel stated that phone lines were down due to bad weather — the same bad weather that is now making rescue operations difficult.
A 5.0 magnitude earthquake is unlikely to trigger an avalanche two hours after its occurrence instead of right after the quake, some argue. But even so, the possibility that the earthquake could have caused a rupture in the snow’s weaker layers may explain the two-hour delay of the avalanche.
While it is still unclear whether the tragedy was caused by the earthquake, historic amounts of accumulated heavy snowfall, or the unfortunate combination of the two, what’s clear for now is that Italian authorities are continuous in their efforts to find survivors.
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