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Italy Quake Avalanche: Four More Survivors Pulled from Buried Hotel Rigopiano

Survivors were met with applause, pats on the head and shouts of "Bravo! Bravo!" as they rescued after an almost three-day ordeal.
Image: Rescue works at avalanche buried hotel Rigopiano continue
A handout photo from the Italian Mountain Rescue Service 'Soccorso Alpino' at the scene early Saturday.SOCCORSO ALPINO HANDOUT / EPA
/ Source: Associated Press

FARINDOLA, Italy — Emergency workers overnight pulled four more survivors from the debris an Italian hotel crushed by an avalanche, bringing the number of those rescued to nine.

As they were hauled to the surface after an almost three-day ordeal, the survivors were met with applause, pats on the head and shouts of "Bravo! Bravo!"

One boy who identified himself as Edoardo said he had been one of three children trapped, along with one woman, in the same room.

"We were there because we wanted to play billiards," he said.

Eduardo's parents, who were in another room, were still missing early Saturday.

However, Alberto Maiolo, a spokesman for the Italian rescue crews., said other survivors may yet be found. "We are still working," he told the Associated Press. "We are verifying the signals we have and continuing our activities to verify if there are people and when we will be able to pull them out."

Two other people survived because they happened to be outside the hotel at the time of the disaster. So far, four bodies have been recovered, including two more overnight.

About 30 people are believed to have been in the Hotel Rigopiano, a luxury ski resort and spa in the Gran Sasso mountains 155 miles northeast of Rome, when the avalanche hit Wednesday afternoon. The building was crushed beneath more than 16 feet of snow.

Relatives of the missing rushed from the mountain rescue operations center to the seaside hospital were survivors have been taken in hope of finding their loved ones there.

One of those who survived by being outside the hotel at the time of the avalanche was Giampiero Parete, a chef who had been vacationing with his family. He was the first to sound the alarm.

He was reunited with his family early Saturday when they were among the first to be pulled from the wreckage.

"Thank you everyone from my heart," Parete wrote on Facebook. "Big hugs."

The region, which has been blanketed by heavy snowfall, was 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.

Firefighters pull more survivors from the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, early Saturday. (Editors' note: Faces pixelated by source)ITALIAN FIRE DEPARTMENT HANDOUT / EPA

"That hotel ... should it have been open?" prosecutor Christina Tedeschini was quoted by the ANSA news agency as asking. "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.