Dramatic footage showed a mother and her son being pulled out of a narrow hole in the snow from the Rigopiano hotel in central Italy. Her six-year-old daughter was still trapped inside.
Emergency crews rescued the first five survivors from inside the Rigopiano hotel in central Italy that was devastated by an avalanche two days ago, officials said on Friday.
Video footage released by rescuers showed a boy, wearing blue snow pants and a matching ski shirt, emerging through a hole in the snow. Emergency crews mussed his hair in celebration and cheered "Bravo! Bravo!"
A woman with a long ponytail wearing red snow pants followed the boy, and they were both helped to a stretcher for the helicopter ride out. Three other children then followed them.
A mother and her young son were pulled from the hotel after rescuers found a group of six people together
The Civil Protection Department said the pair were a mother and her young son. They were hospitalized in what medical workers described as good condition in the city of Pescara.
Local media reported that the pair were the wife, Adriana Vranceanu, and 8-year-old son, Gianfilippo, of one of the men who were rescued from a car in front of the hotel on Thursday.
Their father Giampiero Parete had reportedly called his boss from the car after the avalanche and begged him to call in rescue crews to save his wife and two children inside the hotel.
Rescue workers were still searching for their 6-year-old daughter after her mother indicated she was still alive under the debris. It was not clear if any of the three children also rescued were the daughter.
Authorities believed about 30 people were in the three-level Rigopiano hotel in the Gran Sasso National Park when an avalanche buried it under five meters (16.4 feet) of snow Wednesday evening. The region had been hit by four category-five earthquakes on Wednesday but it was not clear if the two events were linked.
"This first news has obviously repaid all the rescuers' efforts," said Italy's deputy interior minister, Filippo Bubbico.
Eight others still trapped
Fire Brigade official Luca Cari said at least eight others were alive and still trapped, including three children, and one person who was injured.
"The rescue operation is very long and difficult," he told Reuters by telephone from the scene of the disaster in the Abruzzo region.
The mother and son were part of group of six people found in an air pocket on Friday morning.
The rescue team found the group after they saw smoke coming from a fire they had lit to keep warm, said Marco Bini, one of the officers who found them.
"They were all in reasonable health, if very cold. The fire will have been using up the oxygen so we were lucky to find them," he said.
"Their faces said it all, it was like they had been reborn."
Local media also reported that prosecutors in Pescara had opened a manslaughter investigation into the incident amid accusations that the avalanche threat was not taken seriously enough.
Four people were confirmed to have died in the avalanche.
aw/jm (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)