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AVALANCHE

Italy commemorates deadly Rigopiano avalanche

On January 18th Italy marks the second anniversary of a major avalanche in Pescara, Abruzzo which engulfed a luxury hotel and killed 29 people.

Italy commemorates deadly Rigopiano avalanche
Firefighters at work in the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

Today government ministers joined victims' relatives, local residents and representatives of the emergency services to commemorate the disaster, which was was the deadliest avalanche in Italy in almost a century.

The commemoration included prayers and poems, and flowers were laid outside the remains of the Hotel Rigopiano.

The avalanche hit the hotel as 40 guests and staff were inside, while the region was grappling with extreme weather conditions and the hotel was engulfed by snow.

Many of the victims had been gathered in the hotel lobby awaiting evacuation at the time of the disaster.

The building was ripped from its foundations and collapsed almost entirely.

Rescuers reached the site several hours after the incident, having had to travel on foot because roads had been blocked by heavy snow.

When the first rescuers arrived at the scene, they said that the hotel was “no longer there”.

The victims included 18 hotel guests and 11 employees. Some victims were instantly crushed to death while others who remained trapped died of hypothermia and asphyxiation. Eleven people survived.

A further six people died in connection with the extreme weather in the area in January 2017 when an emergency services helicopter crashed. 

The helicopter crew included two of the rescuers who had helped in the Rigopiano search effort.

A rescue helicopter flies towards the hotel rubble in the aftermath of the disaster. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

There were 11 survivors, including two guests who were not inside the hotel when the avalanche hit: the hotel's maintenance man Fabio Salzetta and chef Giampiero Parete, who had left the building to get headache pills for his wife. 

After two days of rescue efforts in exceptionally harsh conditions, rescuers made contact with a group of six survivors in an air pocket. A mother and her young son were the first to be pulled to safety.

Soon after the tragedy, an investigation was opened by authorities which was only concluded in November 2018.

Charges are expected to be brought soon against some 25 people accused of being responsible for or contributing to the scale of the disaster.

In the meantime, one official who was plagued by guilt over the tragedy was driven to suicide. General Guido Conti of the now-disbanded State Forestry Corps was not being held directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of the victims, yet he reportedly felt he should have done more to help.

The charges brought against those notified are likely to include manslaughter and causing injury though negligence by failing to take adequate precautions to protect the hotel's residents.

One of the report's most damning conclusions is that the hotel should never have been issued with building permits allowing its construction in the first place; and that it should at the least have been closed during the winter, when the avalanche risk was at its highest.

A phone call from the hotel requesting help was initially dismissed by authorities as a hoax, delaying rescue efforts by hours.

Italian media reports that many of those accused of being responsible, including the woman who dismissed the calls as a hoax, have claimed not to remember vital information about the incident.

Video: This is Italy's avalanche hotel one week after the disaster

DISASTER

Genoa bridge collapse: in pictures

Dozens died when the Morandi motorway bridge that connects Genoa to most of the rest of northern Italy collapsed during a storm around noon on Tuesday.

Genoa bridge collapse: in pictures
An Italian firefighter helicopter flies over the scene after a section of the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed in the northwestern city of Genoa on August 14, 2018. Photo: Piero Cruciatti / AFP

At this time more than three dozen people are confirmed dead, and including three children.

Photographers at the scene of the collapsed bridge shared images of the disaster.

First images of the collapsed bridge provided by the Italian police show the viaduct in the mist with a huge chunk missing. Photo: Handout / Italian Police / AFP

The first images of the collapsed bridge provided by the Italian police show the viaduct in the mist with a huge chunk missing. Photo: Handout / Italian Police / AFP

 

This general view taken on August 15, 2018, shows abandoned vehicles on the Morandi motorway bridge the day after a section collapsed in the north-western Italian city of Genoa. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

This general view taken on August 15, 2018, shows abandoned vehicles on the Morandi motorway bridge the day after a section collapsed. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

Part of the A10 freeway which collapsed Tuesday fell on to the road below, crushing vehicles beneath. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Part of the A10 freeway which collapsed Tuesday fell on to the road below, crushing vehicles beneath. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

A view from the road below the A10 freeway, which the viaduct collapsed onto. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

A view from the road below the A10 freeway, which the viaduct collapsed onto. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

An Italian fire and rescue service helicopter flies over the site after a section of the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed earlier in Genoa on August 14, 2018. Photo: Photo: Federico Scoppa / AFP

An Italian fire and rescue service helicopter flies over the site of the collapsed bridge. Photo: Photo: Federico Scoppa / AFP

 

People look at the destroyed Morandi motorway bridge from a distance. Photo: Federico Scoppa / AFP

People look at the destroyed Morandi motorway bridge from a distance. Photo: Federico Scoppa / AFP

 

A piece of the A10 freeway, part of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa that collapsed on August 14, 2018, lies on its side on the ground. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP.

A piece of the A10 freeway, part of the Morandi Bridge, lies on its side on the ground. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP.

 

Rubble and debris from the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge is seen strewn along the railway line in the northern port city of Genoa on August 14, 2018. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Rubble and debris from the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge is seen strewn along the railway line. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

The front cabin of a truck that fell from the collapsed section of the A10 freeway lies overturned. Photo: Andrea Leoni / AFP

The front cabin of a truck that fell from the collapsed section of the A10 freeway lies overturned. Photo: Andrea Leoni / AFP

 

Rescuers and police stand near a vehicle caught in the debris of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Rescuers and police stand near a vehicle caught in the debris of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

Rescuers and security forces inspect the wreckage of a vehicle at the site where the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed in Genoa. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Rescuers and security forces inspect the wreckage of a vehicle at the site where the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed in Genoa. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

A helicopter flies among the wreckage of the collapsed bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

A helicopter flies among the wreckage of the collapsed bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFPX

 

A rescuer of the Vigili del Fuoco, the Italian fire and rescue service, walks near the broken Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Piero Cruciatti / AFP

A rescuer of the Vigili del Fuoco, the Italian fire and rescue service, walks near the broken Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Piero Cruciatti / AFP

 

Rescuers and security forces evacuate a body at the site where the Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Rescuers and security forces evacuate a body at the site where the Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

A cordon is set up as people stand looking at the Morandi motorway bridge. Piero Cruciatti / AFP

A cordon is set up as people stand looking at the Morandi motorway bridge. Piero Cruciatti / AFP

 

Mayor of Genoa Marco Bucci speaks on a mobile as he walks at the site where the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Mayor of Genoa Marco Bucci speaks on a mobile as he walks at the site where the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

A child points at the missing section of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, which collapsed onto a railway track on Tuesday. Photo: Piero Cruciatti / AFP

A child points at the missing section of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, which collapsed onto a railway track on Tuesday. Photo: Piero Cruciatti / AFPX

 

A Catholic priest walks past rescue vehicles close to the scene of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

A Catholic priest walks past rescue vehicles close to the scene of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

A green truck driven by Moroccan driver Afifi Idriss had a lucky escape, managing to come to a halt just in front of the collapsed part of the road. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

A green truck driven had a narrow escape, managing to come to a halt just in front of the collapsed part of the road. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

Rescuers and police gather to inspect the rubble and wreckages by the Morandi motorway bridge after a section collapsed earlier in Genoa on August 14, 2018. Photo: Federico Scoppa / AFP

Rescuers and police gather to inspect the rubble and wreckage by the Morandi motorway bridge. Photo: Federico Scoppa / AFP

 

Italian rescuers climb onto the rubble of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge searching for victims and survivors in the northern port city of Genoa on August 14, 2018. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Italian rescuers climb onto the rubble of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge searching for victims and survivors. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (second on the right) visits the site of the disaster scene after a section of the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed earlier in Genoa on August 14, 2018. Photo: Andrea Leoni / AFP

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, seen here exiting his car, visits the site of the disaster scene after a section of the Morandi motorway bridge collapsed earlier in the day on August 14, 2018. Photo: Andrea Leoni / AFP

 

Rescuers use floodlights to inspect the rubble and search for survivors by the Morandi motorway bridge on the night of August 14, 2018. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP

Rescuers use floodlights to inspect the rubble and search for survivors by the Morandi motorway bridge on the night of August 14, 2018. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP