Probe into ho­tel dis­as­ter in Italy

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

PENNE, Italy: Res­cuers have pulled the last of 29 bod­ies from the wreck­age of a ho­tel in cen­tral Italy a week af­ter it was razed by an avalanche, the na­tional fire brigade said yes­ter­day.

With the dis­cov­ery on Wed­nes­day night of the bod­ies of one man and one woman, ev­ery­one known to have been at the Ho­tel Rigopi­ano when it was flat­tened has now been ac­counted for.

Eleven peo­ple sur­vived the dis­as­ter, which struck in the wake of heavy snow­storms and sev­eral pow­er­ful earth­quakes on Jan­uary 18. Nine of them, in­clud­ing four chil­dren, were ex­tracted shiv­er­ing af­ter spend­ing days un­der the crushed ma­sonry.

“When we man­aged to pull out the sur­vivors it gave us hope and energy,” civil pro­tec­tion agency of­fi­cial Luigi D’An­gelo said at an op­er­a­tion base in nearby Penne. “We never lost hope… un­til we had searched the last cen­time­tre of the ho­tel.”

Res­cuers had to use pick­axes and heavy earth-mov­ing equip­ment to shift snow and de­bris and break through the re­in­forced con­crete roof.

Pros­e­cu­tors have opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the tragedy to es­tab­lish if any­one was to blame. Many guests had wanted to leave be­fore the wall of snow struck but were un­able to do so be­cause the ac­cess road was blocked.

The op­po­si­tion 5-Star Move­ment crit­i­cised cuts to lo­cal gov­ern­ment fund­ing and the scrap­ping of a ru­ral po­lice force. They said the na­tional emer­gency pre­ven­tion and re­sponse sys­tem had been ill-pre­pared. “It isn’t the snow’s fault,” the 5-Star wrote on founder Beppe Grillo’s blog.

“The fail­ure of those who should have pre­vented this dis­as­ter and helped the com­mu­ni­ties in dif­fi­culty is clear to ev­ery­one.” – Reuters

PIC­TURE: AP

A Red Cross worker wears a black rib­bon dur­ing the fu­neral of Gabriele D’An­gelo, a vic­tim of the avalanche.

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