Eight more people were found alive on Friday two days after being buried under a massive avalanche that hit a luxury mountain hotel in central Italy, a Civil Protection official said.
Titti Postiglione told reporters that two of the survivors had already been pulled clear of the snow and debris that destroyed the isolated Hotel Rigopiano on Wednesday. Rescuers were digging to free the remaining six people.
“Finding these people gives us further hope there are other survivors,” Postiglione said.
One of the survivors found on Friday was a young girl, said Deputy Interior Minister Filippo Bubbico, who is helping co-ordinate rescue efforts at the scene.
The survivors were found in the hotel kitchen area, which was not crushed by the tonnes of snow that obliterated much of the four-storey building, media said
About 30 people were trapped inside the luxury Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola in central Italy when the avalanche hit Wednesday afternoon. Two people who survived the devastation initially reported the emergency.
The ANSA news agency said the number of possible new survivors was six and that firefighting crews were in touch with them, but that the survivors were still under the rubble. Helicopters reportedly were on the way to the site to aid the evacuation.
Search and rescue teams have maintained the hope of finding more people alive after the avalanche buried the hotel under up to five metres of snow.
“We are hoping that the ceiling collapsed partially in some places and that someone remained underneath,” rescuer Lorenzo Gagliardi told SKY TG24.
Rescuers were using shovels to dig into the tonnes of snow and debris. Two bodies were recovered and RAI state TV reported two more had been located but not yet removed.
The operations have been hampered by difficulty in accessing the remote hotel. Workers have been clearing a seven-kilometre road to bring in heavier equipment, but it can handle only one-way traffic.
‘We are digging’
“We’re still looking,” Fire Brigade spokesman Luca Cari said by telephone from the avalanche scene. “Canine units are helping and we are digging.”
The government will meet on Friday morning and is expected to declare a state of emergency.
An investigation into the tragedy has been opened by a court in nearby Pescara, with some saying the emergency response was slow.
The first rescuers arrived amid a snow storm on skis early on Thursday morning, some 11 hours after the avalanche hit.