At least 10 survivors were located, among them five rescued on Friday, from under the rubble of a hotel crushed on Wednesday by an avalanche in central Italy, the authorities said.
Firefighters were able to pull out first a woman and her child, and then three children in late afternoon.
“It has been a very complicated day, yet also very positive,” Fabrizio Curcio, chief of the Civil Protection Department coordinating rescue efforts, told a press conference.
“Five people are still to be pulled out, and this is a technically hard work,” he added.
Overall, some 29 people including 22 guests and 7 employees were believed to have been inside the Rigopiano hotel, when the incident occurred in late afternoon on Wednesday.
The civil protection chief confirmed two bodies were so far recovered from the debris of the luxury resort, which lies near the 2,912-meter-tall Gran Sasso peak in central Abruzzo region.
Cries of joy and applauses erupted among rescuers when the first woman and child were pulled out from a tunnel dug through the snow covering the hotel, a video provided by firefighters showed.
The rescue work became even more emotional since no signs of life had reached the aid workers up to Friday morning.
Helicopters were called in to bring some of the survivors to hospital in the city of Pescara.
Their health conditions were reportedly quite good, considering they had spent at least 42 hours trapped inside the hotel, which was almost uprooted by the snow-slide.
Those found alive so far seemed to have taken refuge under a roof at the ground floor of the hotel, Ansa news agency reported, citing firefighters sources.
Experts said they were able to survive despite two nights at freezing temperatures because the snow most likely protected them like an igloo.
Beside the 10 people located on Friday, there were two more survivors on the previous day — two men, who were outside the hotel when the avalanche hit, and were able to launch the first SOS call.
One of the two, a 41-year-old police officer, had his wife and two children under the rubble of the hotel, and all three were among those rescued.
The rescue operation would continue through the night of Saturday, the authorities said.
Heavy snow and below-zero temperatures have hampered rescue efforts since the very beginning, and have forced teams into a race against time to find those buried in the avalanche.
The disaster was believed to be triggered by four powerful earthquakes that hit the Abruzzo region on Wednesday morning.
The four seismic events were all above 5 of magnitude on the Richter scale, and with epicenters between the provinces of Rieti and L’Aquila, Italy’s National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (INGV) said.
They followed one another in less than four hours, causing havoc amid battered population in central Italy, who have been haunted by deadly quakes since August last year. Enditem
Source: Alessandra Cardone, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh