As rescuers desperately try to reach up to 38 people who are believed to have died when an avalanche hit their hotel in the Italian mountains, it has emerged that guests had packed their bags and were preparing to flee.
The hotel, which is based in the little, remote village of Farindola, was crushed when a wall of snow slid down the mountain following four earthquakes in the centre of Italy. A friend of one of two survivors said that guests had already packed their bags, checked out of the hotel and were gathered in the lobby when the it was crushed by the avalanche.
However, snow was so heavy that the road outside was impassable and they decided they would have to wait until a snow plough had ploughed a route through. As they waited, they were buried under a 6ft wall of snow. Quintino Marcella has told of how his employee Giampaolo Parete, a chef who was on holiday at the hotel, survived the catastrophe. He said that all of the guests had paid and checked out and were ready to leave as soon as the road was clear enough.
So far, it is understood that rescue teams have found three bodies. However, they are still searching for up to 35 more staff and guests. Earlier, it was revealed that desperate guests had sent texts to family members after the avalanche hit. One message called for help, saying that people were dying of the cold. Because of the remote nature of the hotel, rescuers had to trek for six hours, using cross country skis to get to the location of the disaster. One of the survivors is understood to have been a father of two who had gone outside to get something from his car when the snow hit. While he survived, his wife and two children are believed to have been buried in the avalanche.