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Survivors Found at Site of Italy Hotel Destroyed by Avalanche

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Rescue operations at the Hotel Rigopiano in the Apennine Mountains, Italy, late Thursday. Credit Italian Fire Department, via European Pressphoto Agency

ROME — Rescue workers in central Italy found six survivors on Friday at the site of an isolated hotel that was destroyed by an avalanche, officials said, although at least 20 others are missing.

The first contact with the survivors came around 11 a.m. local time, more than a day after the Hotel Rigopiano in the Apennine Mountains was buried under tons of snow, dirt and trees.

The avalanche was believed to have been caused by a series of strong earthquakes in the region on Wednesday, and the chances that anyone would survive the harsh conditions and billowing snow through the night were considered remote.

A spokesman for the alpine division of the Italian Financial Police, which is taking part in rescue efforts, confirmed that six people had been found alive, and television images showed ambulances speeding to the hotel, which had been cut off by heavy snowfall.

On Friday, snow plows cleared the road to the hotel, nestled in the Gran Sasso National Park, allowing heavy machinery that would help rescue workers dig through the debris to pass.

Early rescue efforts were slow, with the first help reaching the hotel early Thursday only after traveling more than five miles on skis and snowshoes. Improved weather conditions on Friday allowed helicopters carrying medics to travel to the hotel.

There was no additional information about the condition of the six people who have been found alive, but Filippo Bubbico, the deputy interior minister, told a radio station that a young girl was among the survivors. Italian news reports said the six had been found under part of the hotel’s roof.

Relatives of the missing waited for news at a hospital in the nearby town of Penne, in the province of Pescara.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the rescue efforts had been hindered by “unprecedented” difficulties, citing the most intense snowfall in decades and the strong earthquakes on Wednesday.

The Rigopiano, a four-star hotel, had 43 rooms. It was not clear how many guests were staying there at the time of the avalanche, although most estimates put the number at about 30.

Source: NYT > World

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