Reports that an Italian resort hotel decimated by a massive avalanche was illegally built in an unsafe location threatened to sour enthusiasm from the discovery of multiple survivors more than 48 hours after disaster struck.

The four-star Hotel Rigopiano, located in the Italian region of Abruzzo, due east from Rome, was torn from its foundation and pushed down the slopes of the Gran Sasso by an avalanche that buried the three-floor structure under thousands of tons of snow, ice, dirt, and other debris.

As many as 30 tourists and staff members, including children, were trapped inside.

One hotel guest and one employee were rescued almost immediately, but the rest were presumed dead by nightfall Tuesday, with already-cold temperatures falling.

It is believed that the avalanche was triggered by a series of earthquakes in the area on Wednesday, several hours before disaster struck the hotel.

But on Friday, at least six survivors were found in what had been the hotel’s kitchen.

That part of the structure was left partially intact, though buried beneath several meters of snow. They were able to light a fire to stay warm.

Italian media reported that another group of survivors was pulled from the wreckage late Friday, bringing the total rescued to as many as a dozen.

As of late Friday local time, only four people were confirmed dead, giving hope to rescue officials, still working without the aid of heavy equipment, who continued to search for survivors.

News of the survivors was well received across Italy, where it was on the top of most online news sites and at the start of televised news programs.

But the developments were colored by reports that the hotel may have been illegally constructed in an area previously deemed unsafe for a large structure.

According to Sergio Rizzo, an investigative reporter with the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, the hotel is a converted farmhouse whose construction sparked an investigation from Italian magistrates.

That probe was eventually settled, and local political leaders lobbied government authorities to grant amnesty to the hotel.

“The hotel should have never been there,” Rizzo said on the television program Piazza Pulita on Friday.

“It’s in a ravine … It’s enough to look at it to understand the risks. It’s scandalous.”

Other media in Italy reported that the building was not up to code for commercial structures, something that could have made the latest tragedy more severe than it would have been under other circumstances.

For the moment, at least, most of the attention in Italy remains focused on the rescue efforts.

Giampiero Parete, 38, was one of the two original survivors.

He said he was saved because he was outside the hotel at his car when the avalanche struck. His wife and two children, aged six and eight, were among the missing.

But on Friday all three were found, and only the six-year-old daughter, required extended hospitalization.

“It’s a miracle,” Parete told local reporters. Enditem

Source: Eric J. Lyman, Xinhua/


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