Death toll finalised at 29 as prime minister acknowledges delays and malfunctioning in initial rescue effort
The final death toll from an avalanche in central Italy last week is 29, firefighters have said, after the last bodies were pulled out of the rubble of a hotel crushed by the snow.
Nine people were recovered alive from the Hotel Rigopiano in the first days of the rescue.
The Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, acknowledged delays and malfunctioning in the initial rescue effort, after local authorities brushed off the first alarms about the avalanche. But he told parliament on Wednesday that now was not the time to find scapegoats.
He said more than two metres of snow fell within 72 hours on the isolated hotel, and four earthquakes then struck the region. The ensuing landslide and avalanche dumped more than of 60,000 tons of snow, rocks and uprooted trees on top of the resort, burying 40 people inside.
Two people escaped and called for help, but the Pescara prefects office initially brushed off the alarm thinking it was a joke and that the hotel was safe.
The rescue operation got under way an hour or two later, and it took eight hours for the first crews to reach the site, travelling on foot because the roads were impassable.
Prosecutors said postmortems on the first six bodies examined showed most died from the initial physical trauma of the hotel collapsing, with some also showing signs of hypothermia and asphyxiation.
Gentiloni said a criminal investigation into the deaths was under way.