The Latest: Italian premier urges redoubling of efforts

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Posted: Jan 19, 2017 7:23 AM
The Latest: Italian premier urges redoubling of efforts

MILAN (AP) — The Latest on the avalanche that buried a hotel in central Italy (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

Premier Paolo Gentiloni is urging Italian authorities to redouble efforts to reach people isolated by new earthquakes and unusually heavy snow, as he sought to deflect criticism of the rescue efforts.

Gentiloni told reporters Thursday that the priority is to reach all isolated towns and hamlets that have been buried under snowfall for days and then jolted by four powerful quakes on Wednesday.

Residents have been complaining for days that they have been without electricity because of what Gentiloni called a "record snowfall." Criticism has also come in about the response time to reach a hotel buried under an avalanche.

Gentiloni said: "I ask everyone if possible to multiply their efforts. I ask politicians to show sobriety respecting the difficulty of the situation and the commitment of civil and military crews who are responding."

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12:55 p.m.

The head of the Italy's civil protection authority is defending the response to a new series of earthquakes coupled with unusual snowfall, after an avalanche left 30 people missing.

Fabrizio Curcio says that authorities are confronting "two exceptional events that that already alone would have created great difficulty in the response."

For the heavy snowfall, Curcio said "we try to tell people to stay in their own homes, if they are secure, obviously. And in the areas of quakes, people should leave their homes. Putting together these two elements is extremely complicated."

An avalanche at Hotel Rigopiano in the central Abruzzo region has left at least 30 people missing.

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12:45 p.m.

Criticism is starting to pour in about the response of emergency crews to Italy's snow-covered quake zone, including over when rescue teams were activated to reach the avalanche-covered Hotel Rigopiano in the central Abruzzo region. At least 30 people are missing there.

A restaurant owner, Quintino Marcella, said he received a phone call at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday from one of his chefs who was on vacation at the hotel, had escaped but said his wife and two children were trapped inside.

"He calls me and says 'Help me, an avalanche has hit and the hotel isn't there anymore. It's disappeared. It's buried. Two of us are here but call rescue crews.'"

Marcella said he immediately called police and prefecture's emergency coordination center, but the prefect's office assured him that the hotel had phoned two or three hours earlier reporting everything was OK.

Marcella said he frantically tried to call other emergency numbers but no one took him seriously. Speaking on Sky TG24, he said only hours later, after 8 p.m., did the response begin.

He said his chef kept saying "Help, help, help, help."

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12:15 p.m.

The hotel buried by an avalanche in Italy is just one of several rescues underway in an area that has been pummeled by more than a meter (three feet) of snow in recent days — storms that have knocked out power and phone lines and blocked roads, isolating towns and hamlets.

"We have been abandoned by everyone!" marveled one resident from the province of Teramo, Daiana Nguyen, on Sky TG24. "They talk about sending in the army: Thirty to 40 men came with shovels. We need heavy machinery."

Nguyen said people have been stuck in their homes for days.

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11:15 a.m.

Italian news reports say that some guests at a mountain hotel struck by an avalanche sent text messages to emergency numbers advising they were trapped inside.

"Help, we're dying of cold," one couple wrote rescuers, according to the ANSA news agency.

In addition, someone who had managed to get out also texted authorities. The guest, identified by news reports as Fabio Salzetta, sent a SMS message saying he had escaped with a maintenance worker but that others were trapped inside.

Corriere della Sera quoted the text message as saying: "Some walls were knocked down." And: "I'm outside with a maintenance worker but you can't see anything of the hotel, there's only a wall of snow in front of me."

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11 a.m.

Television images show piles of snow and rubble cascading down the stairway into the foyer of the hotel struck by an avalanche.

Sky TG24 has broadcast the first images from rescue workers entering the hotel. The foyer appeared to be mostly clear of snow, but images showed a pile of debris-filled snow entering from a stairwell and in corridors. The audio was silent.

Italian authorities say that 30 people are missing after the avalanche in the central Abruzzo region.

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10:25 a.m.

Italian news agency ANSA is quoting a survivor as saying he was saved because he had gone outside to his car to get something when an avalanche hit a mountain hotel.

The survivor, identified as 38-year-old Giampaolo Parete, told doctors that his wife and two children were buried in the avalanche.

He said that the car hadn't been buried and that he waited there for rescuers.

Italian authorities say that 30 people are missing after the avalanche in the central Abruzzo region.

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9:20 a.m.

Italian civil protection authorities say that 30 people are missing after an avalanche covered a mountain hotel in central Italy.

The authority says they were working to get rescue vehicles to the Hotel Rigopiano through roads covered in snow, joining initial rescue efforts overnight by alpine rescue squads.

Italian media say that the avalanche covered the three-story hotel in the central region of Abruzzo on Wednesday evening. The news agency ANSA quoted a rescuer as saying that there were fatalities, but details weren't immediately available.

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9:10 a.m.

An Italian official says a hotel in an earthquake-hit zone of central Italy has been buried by an avalanche, with reports of dead.

Italian media say that the avalanche covered the three-story hotel in the central region of Abruzzo on Wednesday evening. The news agency ANSA quoted a rescuer as saying that there were fatalities, but details weren't immediately available.

The president of the Pescara provincial wrote on Facebook on Thursday that there were 20 guests at the hotel when it was covered by the avalanche, about 45 kilometers (30 miles) from the coastal city of Pescara.