Italy hotel avalanche toll climbs to 15

Rome, Jan 24 (IANS) Six more bodies were found in the ruins of a mountain hotel in Italy engulfed by an avalanche six days ago, the media reported on Tuesday.

In the past few hours, the bodies of four men and two women were recovered from the Rigopiano hotel in central Italy, bringing the total number of victims to 15, the BBC said.

Fifteen people remain unaccounted for and rescuers said there was still a faint hope that some could still be alive.

Firefighters were trying to punch a hole through an 80 cm concrete wall into the hotel bar. Rescuers worked round the clock and still hope to find survivors. Eleven people have been found alive, said Fire Department spokesman Luca Cari.

The first funerals were held for the victims of the avalanche on Tuesday. Chief waiter of the hotel, Alessandro Giancaterino, was among the first laid to rest in the next village of Farindola, while fellow waiter Gabriele D’Angelo was buried a few kilometres away.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella called for a “united effort and common front in the face of disaster”. But concerns have been raised about the emergency services’ handling of the disaster.

Some relatives of the missing have complained that the snow-bound hotel, which lies near the 2,912-metre-tall Gran Sasso peak in central Abruzzo region, should have been evacuated before the avalanche hit on Wednesday.

According to rescuers, the rooms on the upper floors were completely destroyed in the avalanche after four consecutive earthquakes on January 18.