ROME, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Italian prosecutors are investigating six suspects, including several officials, in the deaths of 29 people at a luxury mountain hotel in central Italy that was flattened by a massive avalanche earlier this year.
On January 18, a 120,000-ton mass of snow sped down a mountain at about 100 kilometers per hour and tore into the four-star Rigopiano Hotel, located at altitude of 1,200 meters in the mountainous Abruzzo region.
Most of the fatal victims were subsequently found in the entrance hall of the hotel, where they had gathered to wait for a snow plough to dig them out of the snowbound resort so they could leave.
A total of 11 survivors -- including four children -- were eventually dug out of the rubble and snow.
Italian prosecutors said after the fatal incident that they would investigate why distress calls from the hotel were initially dismissed, why the snow plough didn't arrive until long after the avalanche hit, and whether safety procedures were followed.
Questions were raised as to whether the hotel should have been evacuated sooner, given that the incident took place after four powerful magnitude-5 earthquakes shook central Italy amid record snowfall, and there was a level-four avalanche alert that day.
Also at issue is the delay in dispatching one of two available turbine snow ploughs, in spite of the fact that hotel staff had requested one hour before the avalanche struck around 4:30 pm.
All those under investigation are being probed on possible charges of manslaughter, negligence, and causing bodily harm. The hotel manager is being investigated on additional charges of workplace safety omissions, Italian news agency Ansa reported.
A former mountain hut in Italy's scenic Apennine mountains, the Rigopiano became an upmarket hotel and spa in the early 1970s.