Following a series of earthquakes in central Italy, an avalanche occurred on the evening of 18 January 2017 on Gran Sasso d’Italia, in Rigopiano, a tourist destination in the municipality of Farindola. The Rigopiano hotel was one of the only buildings in the area and was hit by a 30-metre-high avalanche. An isolated location, approximately 20km from Penne and 2 hours’ drive from Rome, the building was mostly destroyed, trapping 40 people in a mixture of snow, vegetation and debris.
There is still hope of finding somebody alive, so the Emergency Services are working on 24h shifts. There are 14 persons still missing. At the time of publication, there are approximately 150-200 service personnel working on site, mostly digging with snow shovels. Access by helicopter is often restricted by the weather conditions. It is important to provide hot food on site but emergency crews had found that any food prepared at the base camp in Penne gets to the site cold.
On Sunday 22nd of January the Rapid Relief Team offered for volunteers to go up to Rigopiano to help hand out the supplies, and the offer was readily accepted. When the representatives arrived on site we were immediately recognized as the organization that had provided food at the Amatrice earthquake, and were asked if we could prepare hot meals on site.
Emergency services helped identify and excavate a safe platform on the snow for our stands, and helped us obtain all the required approvals for on-going access to the site. The plan was firstly to transport all the equipment to site, set up the marquee and get soups and coffee going as soon as possible after arrival. When the sandwiches are delivered to site, our RRT team assists the Protezione Civile in handing the food out, as well as snacks and cold drinks.
Our camp is situated now approximately 500 metres away from the Hotel Rigopiano. Food preparation will happen within the marquees and will need to be carried to the hotel. The Emergency Services have provided radio transmitters to the RRT – which is a safety condition in being close to the hotel. RRT are committed to serving hot meals at lunch time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and have transported a supply of energy snacks, energy drinks, coke and water for distribution at Rigopiano. Our thoughts and prayers are very much with the relatives who have lost loved ones in this disaster. We also wish the emergency services well with their ongoing efforts.