Italy hotel avalanche: 10 found alive after 2 days

Rome, Jan 21 (IANS) Rescuers in central Italy have found 10 survivors after an avalanche buried a mountain hotel, the authorities said.

Firefighters were able to pull out first a woman and her child, and then three children on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It has been a very complicated day, yet also very positive,” Fabrizio Curcio, chief of the Civil Protection Department coordinating rescue efforts, told the media.

“Five people are still to be pulled out, and this is a technically hard work,” he added.

Overall, some 29 people including 22 guests and seven employees were believed to have been inside the Rigopiano hotel, when the incident occurred on Wednesday.

The civil protection chief confirmed two bodies were so far recovered from the debris of the luxury resort, which lies near the 2,912-metre-tall Gran Sasso peak in central Abruzzo region.

Cries of joy and applauses erupted among rescuers when the first woman and child were pulled out from a tunnel dug through the snow covering the hotel.

Helicopters were called in to bring some of the survivors to hospital in the city of Pescara.

Their health conditions were reportedly quite good, considering they had spent at least 42 hours trapped inside the hotel, which was almost uprooted by the snow-slide.

Beside the 10 people located on Friday, there were two more survivors on the previous day — two men, who were outside the hotel when the avalanche hit, and were able to launch the first SOS call.

The rescue operation would continue through the night of Saturday, the authorities said.

Heavy snow and below-zero temperatures have hampered rescue efforts since the very beginning, and have forced teams into a race against time to find those buried in the avalanche.

The disaster was believed to be triggered by four powerful earthquakes that hit the Abruzzo region on Wednesday morning.

The four seismic events were all above 5 of magnitude on the Richter scale, and with epicentres between the provinces of Rieti and L’Aquila, Italy’s National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (INGV) said.

–IANS

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