Rescuers in Italy pull 2 children, 8 other survivors from hotel rubble
The survivors were found in the kitchen area, which wasn't crushed by the snow
To cheers of joy, rescue crews pulled survivors from the debris of an avalanche-crushed hotel in central Italy on Friday, an incredible discovery that boosted spirits two days after the massive snow slide buried about more than 30 people at the resort.
Two children were among those rescued.
As survivors were pulled from the rubble, firefighter spokesman Luca Cari said a total of 10 people had been found alive so far. It wasn't immediately clear if the number included the two people who weren't inside the hotel when the avalanche hit.
First word of the discovery of the survivors came at around 11 a.m. local time. The news was met with exhilaration after at least four people had already been found dead. The avalanche Wednesday dumped upwards of five metres of snow on the hotel.
Video released by rescuers showed a boy, wearing blue snow pants and a matching shirt, emerging from the structure through a snow hole. Emergency crews mussed up his hair in celebration.
"Bravo, Bravo!" they cheered.
Next came a woman with a long ponytail wearing red snow pants. She appeared fully alert. Both were helped to a stretcher for a helicopter ride out.
"This first news has obviously repaid all the rescuers' efforts," said Filippo Bubbico, Italy's deputy interior minister.
About 30 people were trapped inside the luxury Hotel Rigopiano in the Gran Sasso mountain range when the avalanche hit after days of winter storms that dumped up to three metres of snow in some places. The region was also rocked by four earthquakes on Wednesday, but it was not clear if any of those set off the avalanche.
Giampiero Parete, one of the two survivors who were outside the hotel and called out for help, called his boss and begged him to reach out to rescue crews because his wife and two children were inside.
His wife, Adriana Vranceanu, 43, and son, Gianfilippo, were reunited with their father at the hospital in Pescara on Friday, ANSA news agency and state-run RAI radio said. The fate of their daughter, Ludovica, wasn't immediately known.
The number of the survivors found and extracted from the rubble evolved over the course of the day Friday.
"We found five people alive. We're pulling them out. Send us a helicopter," a rescuer said Friday over firefighters' radio, overheard by Associated Press journalists making their way on foot toward the disaster site.
Later, the number rose to eight people.
'They realized the risk'
Firefighter Giuseppe Romano then said more positive news was unfolding: "There are signs from other people. Other people are responding to our requests," he told Sky Tg24.
Rescue crews said the first group of survivors had been found in a kitchen area, and had survived thanks to an air pocket that formed when reinforced cement walls partially resisted the avalanche's violent power.
"It's probable that they realized the risk and took protective measures," Romano said.
Those being rescued were in remarkably good condition and were being flown to area hospitals, rescue workers said.
Titi Postiglione, operations chief of the civil protection agency, also said the survivors would be helping rescuers trying to find others trapped in the hotel.
"They can give us a series of indications to help with our intervention plan, information to understand what happened and help direct the search," she said.
Search and rescue teams had maintained the hope of finding survivors even though the snow covered the hotel.
Two bodies were recovered on the first day of searching, and RAI state TV reported that two other bodies had been located but not yet removed.
The operations have been hampered by difficulty in accessing the remote hotel, located 180 kilometres northeast of Rome.
Workers have been clearing a seven-kilometre road to bring in heavier equipment, but the mountain road can handle only one-way traffic and is covered not only by about three metres of snow, but also fallen trees and rocks.
Days of heavy snowfall had knocked out electricity and phone lines in many central Italian towns and hamlets, and the hotel phones went down early Wednesday, just as the first of four powerful earthquakes struck.
The force of the massive snow slide collapsed one wing of the hotel and rotated another off its foundation, pushing it downhill.