Italy avalanche: Hotel search ends with 29 dead, 11 rescued

Volunteers and rescuers work Wednesday at the scene of the Hotel Rigopiano avalanche.

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Eleven people survived, with nine pulled from beneath the snow and wreckage

The final death toll from the avalanche stands at 29

Rome CNN  — 

Rescuers are no longer searching for anyone else in the wreckage of a hotel engulfed by an avalanche last week, Italy’s Civil Protection Department said Thursday, leaving the final death toll at 29.

Confirmation that the arduous rescue and recovery operation was over came shortly after Italy’s national fire brigade tweeted that the last two bodies had been found.

Eleven people were rescued from the Hotel Rigopiano, nine of them pulled from air pockets in the snow-covered wreckage in the days after the avalanche. The other two were found sheltering in a car outside the hotel in the hours after the snow came crashing down.

At least four children were among those plucked alive from the ruined building.

Rescuers had braved difficult weather conditions and the risk of further avalanches as they sought to find more survivors.

The four-star spa hotel at the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain, about 135 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of Rome, was buried in snow January 18 after a series of earthquakes in the region earlier that day.

News reports emerged Tuesday that the hotel’s director urgently called for assistance just hours before the avalanche came rushing down the mountain.

In an email to local officials, the director said guests were “terrified,” roads were blocked due to heavy snow and phones were out of service.

Prosecutors are examining his call for help.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni told the Senate on Wednesday that any delays or lapses in the response would be investigated, Italian news agency ANSA reported. He also praised the efforts of more than 11,000 people who helped in rescue efforts across the region following the massive snowfall and earthquakes.

00:53 - Source: CNN
Puppies rescued from avalanche site

Fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari told CNN on Saturday that all known survivors had been rescued from the hotel site but efforts continued to find those still missing and any other air pockets where they might be sheltering.

Three sheepdog puppies were discovered alive under the rubble Monday, which sparked renewed optimism at the time.

CNN’s Hada Messia reported from Rome, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN’s Simon Cullen, Barbie Latza Nadeau and John Fiegener contributed to this report.