Rome - Several people have died after a ski hotel was hit by a huge avalanche in earthquake-ravaged central Italy, local media reported Thursday quoting rescue services.
"There are many dead," Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police coordinating the rescue effort was quoted as saying after an advance party reached the hotel following a 10-kilometre (6-mile) cross country trek on skis.
Italy's Civil Protection Agency said there had been around 30 guests and staff at the Hotel Rigopiano on the eastern lower slopes of the Gran Sasso mountain when the first of four powerful quakes hit the region on Wednesday morning.
It said it could not immediately confirm any deaths out of respect for the families of the guests and staff.
Antonio Di Marco, president of the province of Pescara, which includes the mountain village of Farindola where the hotel is located, said two people had been saved.
"We don't know yet how many people are unaccounted for or dead," he wrote on his Facebook page.
"What is certain is that the building took a direct hit from the avalanche, to the point that it was moved by 10 metres."
Farindola mayor Ilario Lacchetta said on his Facebook page that "the dimensions of the avalanche were huge".
"It took the whole hotel with it," he said.
The region was hit by four seismic shocks measuring above five magnitude in the space of four hours on Wednesday, with at least one person confirmed dead.
The hotel is located around 90 kilometres (55 miles) from the epicentre of the quakes.