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Anguish and miracles: avalanche dramas captivate Italy
Rome (AFP) Jan 25, 2017

Avalanches kill 10 Indian soldiers in Kashmir
Srinagar, India (AFP) Jan 26, 2017 - Avalanches killed 10 Indian soldiers in Kashmir after cascading onto an army post and a patrol along the de facto border that divides the disputed territory with Pakistan, the military said Thursday.

The separate avalanches buried the soldiers under tonnes of snow on the Line of Control (LoC) in the remote Gurez area on Wednesday, an army spokesman told AFP.

A total of seven soldiers in the patrol, that was approaching a border post when it was hit, were killed. The avalanche that slammed into the army post left three soldiers dead, but seven have been rescued.

A search for the other missing soldiers was continuing, Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

"With the recovery of bodies of four more soldiers from the patrol the toll in the avalanches is now 10," he said after three bodies were recovered on Wednesday.

Dozens of Indian and Pakistani soldiers are killed by avalanches almost every winter along the LoC.

Indian-administered Kashmir has been witnessing one of the most severe winters in recent decades, with heavy snow across the territory and temperatures dropping to minus seven degrees Celsius (19 degrees Fahrenheit).

Four members of a single family died Wednesday in the same area when the house they were sleeping in was hit by an avalanche. A lone survivor was rescued.

One soldier also died Wednesday in the north of the territory when a camp was hit by an avalanche.

Meteorologists have forecast more heavy snow across the region over the next two days.

Authorities had already issued avalanche warnings, advising residents in mountainous areas not to venture out.

Police last week evacuated 80 villagers from Waltengoo Nar -- where dozens were killed after a series of avalanches hit the area in 2005 -- in the south of the territory.

In the anxious days since an avalanche engulfed the Hotel Rigopiano in Italy on January 18, wrenching scenes and heart-stirring strokes of luck have riveted the country.

The death toll hit 25 on Wednesday, with four people still missing.

- Braving the storm -

Central Italy was the scene of chaos after the region was struck by record snowfall and four magnitude five earthquakes in the space of four hours on January 18.

About three hours later, an avalanche slams into the Rigopiano on the eastern slopes of Monte Gran Sasso.

Alpine rescue crews are mobilised in nearby Farindola at around 7:00 pm, but the winding eight-kilometre (five-mile) road to the resort is blocked by about two meters (6.5 feet) of snow.

Pushing through the falling snow on skis, the first rescuers arrive at about 4:00 am, only to find complete devastation: One rescuer says the hotel, buried by an avalanche that hit with the force of 4,000 trucks, "no longer exists".

On January 19, a snowplow is finally able to clear the road to the site.

- A family spared -

Giampiero Parete, 38, leaves to get some pills for his wife from the car and sees the hotel collapse under an "enormous wave of snow and half the mountain."

Left inside are his wife, Adriana, and two children; Gianfilippo, 7, and Ludovica, 6. After trying in vain to dig into the hotel, he returns to his car to wait with a hotel employee who also survived.

Hospitalised with mild hypothermia about 50 kilometres away in Pescara, Parete loses hope of ever seeing his family again.

But on the morning of January 20, Adriana and Gianfilippo are pulled unharmed from the rubble. Ludovica, trapped in a nearby room, is rescued a few hours later.

- 'Sang them songs' -

When the avalanche struck, Ludovica was playing in the hotel's games room with two other children, Edoardo Di Carlo, 9, and Samuel Di Michelangelo, 7.

According to psychologists quoted in Italian daily La Repubblica, Edoardo held the two other children during the 48-hour ordeal, singing them songs or parts of "Frozen," Ludovica's favourite cartoon.

Finding them boosted the hopes of the rescue workers, who had found only bodies in the aftermath of recent earthquakes throughout Italy.

"For us, these angels outweigh all the deaths," one worker said.

At hospital, Edoardo learned that his parents had died in the hotel. But the boy, who will now be taken care of by his older brothers, aged 17 and 19, asked if he could stay in the hospital with Samuel, whose parents are still missing.

On Tuesday, the two boys, fans of Juventus football club, got a call from Paulo Dybala, the team's Argentine striker, who invited them to visit in Turin.

- Fallen heroes -

On Tuesday, a helicopter is sent to rescue a skier who had broken two bones in his leg at Campo Felice ski resort 120 kilometres east of Rome, close to the region struck by the quakes and avalanche.

But the helicopter crashes, killing all six onboard, including two members of the emergency team at the Hotel Rigopiano: Walter Bucci, 57, a doctor, and Davide De Carolis, 40, a rescue worker.

Writing on Facebook, fellow rescuer and friend Roby De Paolis recalled how in the days leading up to the crash, he had worked with De Carolis on a team that dug through the night to follow the voice of a trapped survivor at the avalanche hotel.

"After seven hours of frantic efforts, we got him out, to the applause of all."



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Previous Report
Italy avalanche toll at 15 as helicopter crash adds to pain
Farindola, Italy (AFP) Jan 24, 2017
The death toll from an avalanche that swamped an Italian mountain hotel rose to 15 Tuesday, with 14 still missing, as a nearby helicopter crash left six people dead and dealt another blow to a region reeling from earthquakes and the heaviest snowfall in decades. The emergency response helicopter came down in thick fog near Campo Felice, a popular ski resort 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of ... read more

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