Gran Sasso ski area map

Gran Sasso ski area map
Several people are believed to be missing after an avalanche struck a hotel in Pescara, in the Abruzzo region in Italy, local media report.

The disaster happened at the base of the Gran Sasso mountain range near the Rigopiano di Farindola hotel.

Emergency services have been dispatched to the scene where up to 20 people have been staying in the hotel, according to Italian media reports. Rescuers believe three people are missing, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

"There seem to be victims, but it all needs to be confirmed. There were 20 guests in the hotel," according to provincial President Antonio Di Marco.

Rescue teams on site are trying to reach people on their mobile phones, but the phones are reportedly not being answered.

Emergency services were notified of the disaster by two visitors staying at the hotel. They said that about twenty guests were registered at the time of the incident, besides the employees who have been working at the hotel.

The Gran Sasso Resort Farindola (Pescara) is a situated some 1,200 meters above sea level making rescue efforts difficult. Rescue teams could take up to three hours to get there as they need to cover roughly 50 km in treacherous weather conditions to get there.

The National Mountain Rescue Corps (CNSAS) said it has dispatched about 35 people, split into four teams from Abruzzo and the neighboring region to organize the search, but the roads are blocked by 2 meter piles of snow.

Central Italy was struck by a series of earthquakes on Wednesday, measuring up to magnitude 5.7, with tremors reportedly felt across the regions of Abruzzo, Marche and Lazio - including the city of Rome.

In addition to the quakes, the country has been pounded by heavy snowfall and rain.

The Civil Protection department in the Marche region announced an alarm for possible avalanches. There are also concerns that a river in Pescara might soon burst its banks. Some 100,000 people have been left without electricity in the region of Abruzzo after heavy snowfalls, ANSA reports.

Civil Protection chief, Fabrizio Curcio, said that his agency is assessing the situation in central Italy adding it was a difficult task.

"The situation is quite complicated," Curcio told Sky television. "It has been snowing without stop in that area (central Italy,) for hours and it will continue to do so for the next few hours."