Central Italy was struck recently with an avalanche that crushed the four star hotel, Hotel Rigopiano. Giorgia Galassi and Vincenzo Forti recalled the tragic events, stating that for the three days following the avalanche, the survivors shivered on a sooty sofa and sucked on packed snow. When rescuers finally came, they had to be pulled out by their feet. Galassi and Forti were among the 11 known survivors of the avalanche which left at least 25 others dead. As of Wednesday evening, four people were still missing, with hopes dwindling that they will be found alive.
Mr. Forti, 25, and Ms. Galassi, 22, were finally extricated at 5 a.m. on Saturday. “When we first heard a voice, it was a moment of joy,” Mr. Forti said on Wednesday as he and Ms. Galassi recounted their story; “We were miraculous survivors.” They had arrived at the Rigopiano, in the Gran Sasso National Park, on the blustery evening of January 17, just hours before four powerful earthquakes shook Central Italy. “Until the rescue workers told us it was an avalanche, I was certain it had been an earthquake,” Ms. Galassi said. Tons of snow and debris had swept through the hotel, crushing the top floors. “We couldn’t see anything, it was total darkness. Then I found my phone nearby,” Ms. Galassi said. She tried to make an emergency call but there was no signal. For a while, they used the phone to illuminate their surroundings. That is, until the battery died.
As critics accused officials of inadequately responding to the avalanche, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni defended rescue efforts, telling senators on Wednesday that “every effort had been made” to save human lives, and that criminal procedures would determine whether mistakes had been made. It took the first rescuers more than eight hours to reach the hotel, on foot, because snow had blocked the roads. Ms. Galassi, Mr. Forti, and Ms. Bronzi had nothing but praise for their rescuers. In her interview on Tuesday, on the late-night Italian talk show, “Porta a Porta,” Ms. Bronzi asked whether she might someday be able to meet the rescuers again. “From the moment they heard us, they never left us alone, they kept us company,” Ms. Bronzi said. “I would like to see them somehow.”