Six investigated over Italy avalanche tragedy

The avalanche hit the Hotel Rigopiano with the force of 4,000 trucks

Italian authorities on Thursday placed six people, including senior local officials, under criminal investigation over the avalanche that engulfed the Rigopiano hotel in January, killing 29 people.

Among those informed they could face charges are the local mayor Ilario Lacchetta, the president of the province of Pescara, Antonio Di Marco, and Bruno Di Tommaso, the manager of the hotel, located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy.

The suspects are being investigated for "negligence, imprudence and recklessness" in relation to the disaster, according to local media.

Local authorities have come under fire from relatives of the victims mainly because of what proved to be a fatal delay in evacuating guests and staff from the hotel on the afternoon of January 18.

When the avalanche hit in the early evening the 40 people in the hotel had been waiting several hours for an access road to be cleared of snow.

The investigation is looking into whether the area's overall plans for avalanche risks were adequate. Other officials are expected to be added to the list of those under investigation.

The avalanche, which followed the heaviest snowfalls seen in the region in decades, was calculated to have hit the hotel with the force of 4,000 full-loaded articulated lorries hurtling downhill.

Of the 11 survivors, two were outside when the avalanche struck and the nine others, including all four children in the hotel, were trapped in cavities under the rubble.

Most of the victims died on impact, autopsies concluded, making questions of whether rescuers could have reached the site faster less relevant to the investigation.