Disaster Response

4 more survivors pulled out of Italy's avalanche-hit hotel

Rescuers work at the avalanche-hit Rigopiano hotel, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. After two days huddled in freezing cold, tons of snow surrounding them in the wreckage of the avalanche-demolished hotel, survivors greeted their rescuers Friday as "angels." Among the 10 people pulled out alive was a plucky 6-year-old who just wanted her favorite cookies. (Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico/The National Alpine Cliff and Cave Rescue Corps (CNSAS) via AP)

Rescuers work at the avalanche-hit Rigopiano hotel, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. After two days huddled in freezing cold, tons of snow surrounding them in the wreckage of the avalanche-demolished hotel, survivors greeted their rescuers Friday as "angels." Among the 10 people pulled out alive was a plucky 6-year-old who just wanted her favorite cookies. (Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico/The National Alpine Cliff and Cave Rescue Corps (CNSAS) via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Emergency crews pulled out four more survivors from the rubble of a hotel crushed by an avalanche and were searching Saturday for more who may still be alive as family members awaited word if their relatives were among the lucky ones.

The overnight operations raised to at least nine the number of people found alive in the rubble of Wednesday's avalanche that demolished the the Hotel Rigopiano in the Gran Sasso mountain area when tons of snow rushed down the mountainside, slamming into the resort.

Dozens of family members and friends kept a tense vigil overnight, and four were rewarded with the arrival of their loved ones at the hospital early Saturday. But one father who has been waiting since Wednesday evening for word of his son's fate erupted in front of television cameras, pointing angrily at the sedans of local officials.

RESCUERS FIND 10 SURVIVORS AT ITALIAN HOTEL TWO DAYS AFTER AVALANCHE

"What are they doing? They aren't doing anything. Why didn't they go get the kids out the night before the disaster?," the man yelled, referring to his son, Stefano Feniello and his fiancee Francesca Bronzi, who was among those hospitalized.

The father, who did not give his name, said he had been told Feniello had survived, but officials had supplied no clear information by midday Saturday, nearly three days after the tragedy.

"Why are they here, taking all the credit. They are disgusting. It is an outrage. I am waiting for three days for my son. They said that my son had been recovered but he hasn't arrived."

Meters-high piles of snow piled up in the central Italian area after days of snowfall earlier in the week that blocked roads and left many of the guests unable to leave before the avalanche.

Firefighter spokesman Alberto Maiolo said a total of four bodies had been found in the rubble. Some 30 people, including guests and workers, were believed to have been inside the hotel when the avalanche struck.

"We are still working, we are verifying the signals we have and continuing our activities to verify if there are other people and when we will be able to pull them out," Maiolo said Saturday morning.

Two other people escaped the devastation just before the avalanche struck, including Giampiero Parete, a chef vacationing with his family who first sounded the alarm by calling his boss. He was reunited with his wife and two children Saturday after they were among the first to be located and extracted from the debris. "Thank you everyone from my heart," Parete wrote on Facebook. "Big hugs."

In all, four children were safely brought out of the rubble and taken to Pescara hospital, where they were reported in good condition.

Nine-year-old Edoardo Di Carlo told his rescuers he had gone into the billiards room to play when he was trapped by the avalanche, and that three children had been together. When the rescuers, eager for details that might aid further rescues, gently asked him if there were other people, including grown-ups, the boy replied: "Only the mamma of another child." He started sounding weary, and the rescuers quickly encouraged him, saying, "bravissimo."

The four children and five adults who were being treated at the hospital Saturday, included one person who underwent surgery for an upper arm compression injury, said, Rossano di Luzio, a physician at the hospital.

Speaking of the four children who are doing well in the hospital, the doctor added: "Their state of mind is that of someone who has suffered a drama and who was in a truly precarious position for many hours."

In the case of two of the children, the fate of their parents is still unknown.

All the patients, including the children, were being given psychological assistance, and had family members near them throughout the night, di Luzio said.

The avalanche dumped 16½ feet (5 meters) of snow on top of the resort, located 180 kilometers (115 miles) northeast of Rome. The region, which has been blanketed by heavy snowfall, was also rocked by four strong earthquakes on Wednesday, though it wasn't clear if they set off the avalanches.

Prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation and were looking into whether the avalanche threat was taken seriously enough, and whether the hotel should have been evacuated earlier given the heavy snowfall and forecasts.

"That hotel... should it have been open?" prosecutor Christina Tedeschini was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying. "If the people wanted to leave, what prevented them from doing so?"

Parete, the survivor who sounded the alarm, said the guests had all checked out and were waiting for the road to be cleared so they could evacuate. But the snowplow never arrived and the avalanche hit around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.