Rescue workers in Italy are in a race against the clock to find 23 people still missing following a deadly avalanche five days ago (January 18).
A 120,000-tonne wall of snow and debris hit the Rigopiano Hotel hours after the Abruzzo region was rocked by multiple strong earthquakes.
Six people have been confirmed dead. Eleven are known to have survived the ordeal, four of them children.
All are said to be in a good condition.
Director of Pescara Hospital Paediatric Departmen, Giuliano Lombardi said a close eye would be kept on the children in particular.
“The children are physically well. We are in touch with psychologists in order to carry out what we call a protected hospital discharge. ‘Protected’ in a psychological sense. It guarantees a follow-up by psychological assistants for all four children, their families and the people close to them,” he told reporters.
The four are to be discharged on Monday (January 23).
Some rescue workers wouldn’t rule out finding more people alive, but said survival depended on having the fortune to find an air pocket.
Prosecutors in the nearby city of Pescara have launched an investigation into allegations of unintentional multiple manslaughter and negligence, causing a large-scale disaster.
Questions have been raised about the structural safety of the hotel, while authorities have been criticised for not evacuating the hotel quickly enough.
In the hours before the avalanches struck, the village experienced exceptionally heavy snowfall, which blocked the surrounding roads. Prosecutors say a staff member had emailed local authorities to warn them
Bruno Di Tommaso, the Director of the Hotel Rigopiano, described a “worrisome situation,” and said clients were “terrified.”
Some of those found following the disaster had been waiting in the reception for a snow plough to arrive to take them away from the earthquake-hit region.
The region has been struck by multiple tremors since August, 2016. In excess of 300 people have died, while thousands of homes and businesses have been destroyed. The Italian government has now asked Brussels for extra budget flexibility. However, last week, new Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni faced a challenge from the European Commission when it demanded some 3.4 billion euros of deficit cuts this year.