Europe

Italy avalanche: Four more rescued from Rigopiano hotel

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Media captionSurvivors pulled from avalanche hotel after two days

Four more people were rescued overnight from a hotel in Italy destroyed by an avalanche three days ago.

The rescue means that nine people have been recovered alive from the Rigopiano hotel in the eastern Abruzzo region.

At least 15 people are still missing after the avalanche that came after several earthquakes and heavy snowfall.

While one more survivor has yet to be rescued, Italian media said other voices may have been heard in the ruins during the night.

Five people have been confirmed dead.

The first five survivors were taken to safety on Friday, some 40 hours after the avalanche hit on Wednesday.

They had reportedly taken refuge beneath a collapsed portion of ceiling, where they were able to light a fire to keep warm for two days.

The rescue has been hampered by deep snow blocking an access road.

There are also concerns that further avalanches could follow, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported.

Interactive See the impact of the avalanche on the hotel

January 2017

Hotel Rigopiano after avalanche

January 2016

Hotel Rigopiano

The first person pulled out on Friday was an eight-year-old boy, the son of a holidaymaker, Giampiero Parete, who had gone to his car when the avalanche struck and first sounded the alarm by calling his boss.

The boy's mother, Adriana, was pulled out next, telling rescue workers her six-year-old daughter was still trapped inside.

The little girl was also later saved and the family was reunited at a hospital in the coastal town of Pescara.

Hospital officials told the Associated Press news agency they had symptoms of hypothermia and dehydration, but were otherwise in good health.

Interactive See extent of avalanche destruction

After avalanche

After avalanche

Hotel in summer

Hotel in summer

Reports said all four children who survived did so because they were all playing in the same games room, that avoided the worst of the damage.

The latest rescues, of two men and two women, took place at about 03:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on Saturday.

Wednesday's earthquakes included four stronger than magnitude 5, in a region already struggling with heavy snowfall that buried phone lines and took out power cables.

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Media captionRescue teams walked through a snowstorm all night to reach the hotel

Many of the guests had gathered on the ground floor of the hotel to await evacuation following the earthquakes.

But the avalanche completely buried the hotel at about 17:00 (16:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

The force of the snow partially brought down the roof and, according to some reports, shifted the building 10m (32 feet) off its foundations.

Rescuers, who were forced to ski and shovel their way towards the site of the avalanche, were reportedly only dispatched hours later.

Rescuers are unsure of the exact total of people - guests and staff - who were at the hotel, but say it could be as many as 35.

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Media captionAerial pictures show scores of rescue vehicles lined up as a snow-plough tries to break through

Italy has seen a wave of damaging earthquakes in recent months. The Apennines region saw three magnitude-6 tremors between August and October.

It is believed that the geological stress is spread across a number of fault lines in Italy's mountain ranges - with recent earthquakes as the result.

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