Italian Avalanche Survivors Recall Their Miraculous Rescue
It’s hard to imagine an entire hotel disappearing in a matter of seconds. But when a dad ran out to the car to get some medicine for his son, that’s exactly what happened. He turned to find the hotel he’d just left completely buried under snow and rocks. His story, along with the stories from fellow Italian avalanche survivors, are so incredible you won’t want to miss them.
Giampiero Parete, a chef, took his wife and kids to a four-star resort nestled in the Gran Sasso mountain range — the Hotel Rigopiano in Italy. But a series of earthquakes and a terrible storm interrupted the restful stay. And things got infinitely worse after the earthquakes triggered an avalanche.
It’s a miracle anyone survived. Tragically, twenty-nine people did not. But the eleven who did have no doubt that God had a special purpose in sparing them!
Here One Minute, Gone The Next
The terrible snow storm and the earthquakes had the hotel guests on edge. They gathered together downstairs for safety. Giampiero went to retrieve some medicine for his son from the car. It should have only taken a few minutes. But just as he pulled open the car door, a terrible noise prompted him to turn around.
A cascade of snow rushed towards him, so Giampiero ran. The snow buried him only a little bit. Once free, he turned back towards the hotel he’d just left. And the terrifying sight will stay with him forever.
“I saw that the hotel was gone. And my world fell apart at that moment,” he recalled. “And I said a prayer, before making any calls.”
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Looking For Help
120,000 tons of snow, rocks and mountainside now covered the hotel that had stood there just minutes before. Trapped inside were all of the hotel guests, including Giampiero’s family. A feeling of helplessness threatened to overwhelm him, but God gave him strength.
“My family, my things, everything that mattered was gone,” Giampiero explained. “But I didn't want to lose hope. Maybe I could still do something.”
Giampiero placed a call for help on his phone. However, the cell reception was so weak, he wasn’t sure they’d heard him. He came across another survivor, the hotel handyman, and together they were finally able to successfully call for help.
Due to the weather, however, it would be hours before rescue crews would be able to reach the hotel. That left Giampiero and the handyman alone on the mountain. Each excruciating minute only added to the terror building inside them.
“We didn't hear anything,” he said. “We screamed. We cried out. You couldn't hear anything. There was total silence. Nothing… Nothing.”
The crews fought through the raging snow storm and finally arrived in the early hours of the morning.
Their first task was to get Giampiero and the handyman to safety.
“My feet were practically frozen and so were my hands. And emotionally, knowing that as they were taking me away with the sled, I was leaving my family there. I was in tremendous pain,” Giampiero explained.
As the storm eased, more crews arrived. They took shifts digging and searching. The work was long and tedious. And after forty-one hours, there were still no signs of life. Surveying the destruction, no one expected to find any survivors.
Thankfully, though, they didn’t give up.
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As it would turn out, nine people were buried alive beneath the rubble. Giorgia Galassi said it felt like a bomb went off when the avalanche hit.
“Yes, it was a roar and then everything fell,” said Vincenzo Forti, another survivor.
After the chaos of the avalanche came painstaking waiting. The survivors miraculously found themselves in air pockets, entombed by ice, snow and broken tree limbs. They now had no choice but to wait and pray for rescue.
“We never lost hope that someone would come for us,” Vincenzo said.
After spending two nights buried, the Italian avalanche survivors finally heard voices different from their own. Their prayers had been answered — the rescue crews had found them!
“It was a miracle,” Vincenzo said.
Angels Swoop In
Like an army of angels, the rescuers came in from above. They chipped away at the ice and snow, determined to save them.
“They take you out from underground so it is fair to say they gave you life for a second time,” Giorgia said. “If you can't call them angels, I don't know who the angels are at this point. My life– my second life, I owe it to them.”
But that wasn’t the only miracle that day.
Nine Italian avalanche survivors were pulled from the remains of the Hotel. Vincenzo and Giorgia were two of them. So were two children who’s parents tragically died in the avalanche. And finally, Giampiero’s wife, son and daughter emerged safely from the ruins.
“I'm happy for myself, for my family. But I hold the people I met there that day in my heart,” Giampiero said. “We'd become almost like friends, because it was a small hotel. I'm very sad for them. I'm not celebrating. I feel I have a duty to respect their pain even though I'm happy for my family.”
Watch the 60 Minutes interviews in the video below:
It’s not always clear exactly how natural disasters like this fit into God’s plan. But He has a great purpose planned for those who were saved that day. And stories like these remind you it’s not the things of the world that matter, but the intangible things like family, love and faith!
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation-the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ -for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:9-11
h/t: 60 Minutes