Rigopiano Hotel avalanche: Five bodies found, 15 still missing – BBC News

A handout photo made available on 24 January 2017 by the Italian Fire Department (Vigili del Fuoco) shows firefighters searching through the debris of the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Abruzzo region, ItalyImage copyright
EPA

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Firefighters working around the clock are using technical equipment to try to guide their rescue operations

Five more bodies have been found in the ruins of the mountain hotel in Italy engulfed by an avalanche six days ago.

In the past few hours, the bodies of three men and two women have been recovered, reports say, bringing the total number of victims to 14.

But 15 people remain unaccounted for and rescuers say there is still a faint hope that some could still be alive.

Firefighters are trying to punch a hole through an 80cm (2 ft 7 in) concrete wall into the hotel bar.

“We are working on the theory that the avalanche did not necessarily hit or destroy every room and that we haven’t yet reached the heart of the structure,” said spokesman Luca Cari.

He said rescuers were working around the clock and still hoped to find survivors. So far, 11 people have been found alive.

The first funerals are being held on Tuesday. Chief waiter Alessandro Gincaterino was among the first laid to rest, reported AP news agency.

More questions

Rescuers had been able to excavate a path into the hotel which allows access for heavy machinery, Mr Cari said.

They will now try to create a shaft through the 80cm concrete wall dividing the bar from the kitchen, in the hope that there could be an air pocket – and possible survivors – in the space behind.

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EPA

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Rescuers have entered the remains of the hotel structure through a hole in the roof

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EPA

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Rescuers say they retain a thread of hope that more survivors could be found

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EPA

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Melting snow revealed overturned cars

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has called for a “united effort and common front in the face of disaster”. But further concerns have been raised about the emergency services’ handling of the disaster.

Some relatives of the missing have already complained that the snow-bound hotel should have been evacuated before the avalanche hit late on Wednesday afternoon.

Another relative, Alessio Feniello, has accused authorities of wrongly telling him that his son, Stefano, had been rescued.

Now details have emerged of an emergency phone call between a restaurant owner and a senior official at the local authority co-ordinating rescues in Pescara. A transcript has been published by Italian daily La Repubblica.

At 18:20 local time (19:20 GMT), after the hotel’s collapse, Quintino Marcello tells the official that his chef, Giampiero Parete, who was staying at the Rigopiano, contacted him on Whatsapp five minutes before.

“The Rigopiano hotel has collapsed, there’s nothing left. He’s there with his wife and little children. Act immediately. Go up there!”

But La Repubblica says the official insists the hotel is fine and that the fire brigade checked it out during the morning. It was a barn containing sheep at a farm that had collapsed, the official says.

Mr Parete had already contacted emergency services some time before, La Repubblica says, but they checked with the hotel owner, Bruno di Tommaso, who told them he was unaware of an avalanche – though he was not at the scene.

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