Death toll doubles in Italian hotel avalanche rescue effort
Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 9:49 AM - The number of survivors in an avalanche that engulfed a hotel in Italy's Abruzzo region has been growing, however the death toll has recently risen to at least 14, with 15 still missing, CBC news reports.
On Tuesday, firefighters uncovered at least five more bodies, adding to the nine survivors found by Saturday.
The survivors told reporters that they survived by eating snow while trapped under the heap of ice, snow, rock, and debris.
- Avalanche may have been triggered by earthquake.
- 15 people remain missing, while at least 9 survivors have been rescued.
- The first survivors were released from the hospital on Monday, after being treated for shock and hypothermia.
- At least 14 people found dead.
- Area had received very heavy snowfall in lead up to the avalanche.
- Conditions at the site are deteriorating, as heavy snow turns to ice.
Hopes were restored on Monday when three puppies -- the offspring of the buried hotel's two resident dogs -- were recovered from the Hotel Rigopiano on Monday; however, with another handful of fatalities and the first funerals taking place on Tuesday, the respite was short-lived.
Some of the survivors were huddled beneath a collapsed roof, where they were able to light a fire to keep warm while waiting for rescue, the BBC reported.
The number of people who may have been caught in the initial avalanche could be as high as 35, according to the BBC, with more than 20 people likely still buried.
The avalanche was powerful enough to move the building about 10 metres, according to officials quoted in La Repubblica.
It came after storms dumped levels of snow on the region not seen in decades, with even Venice, far to the north, seeing a few snowflakes earlier in the month.
It may have been triggered by an earthquake, as that area of Italy saw several tremors on Wednesday, prior to the quake, four of which were greater than magnitude 5.
Central Italy is seismically active, and has been struck by strong earthquakes in recent years.
In 2009, a quake centred on the town of l'Aquila killed more than 300 people. In 2016, multiple earthquakes rocked the region. One, focussed on the Medieval town of Amatrice, killing nearly 300 people, and tremors have continued to rumble beneath the region since then.
With files from Daniel Martins and Daksha Rangan.