Puppies Rescued 5 Days After Devastating Avalanche in Italy
After an avalanche buried central Italy’s luxury Hotel Rigopiano and its guests Wednesday, Jan. 18, rescue workers spent days digging in the snow in a desperate attempt to locate any survivors.
About 120,000 tons of snow, 16 feet deep, slammed into the hotel at 60 miles per hour. It took a while for emergency operators to believe the avalanche had occurred. The first man who called to report it was told that everything was fine at the hotel.
When they finally realized a disaster had in fact happened, first responders had to ski to the hotel, which took 12 hours. It took another day until the roads could be cleared with snowplows so emergency vehicles could finally get through.
Despite these circumstances, 11 survivors, including three children, were somehow able to keep themselves alive for over 40 hours by using their cellphones as flashlights to find water. The children, trapped in a game room, ate packets of Nutella and drank bottled water.
By Monday, rescuers were only pulling bodies from the snow and rubble. Discouraged and depressed, they were ready to give up hope.
The rescuers were told there were three puppies at the hotel. They had no idea where they were until they heard a noise in a boiler room inside what remained of the building. It was the three fluffy, white Abruzzo sheepdog puppies, only six weeks old, who had miraculously managed to survive both the avalanche and being stranded for five days.
“They just started barking very softly,” said Sonia Marini, one of the rescuers. “In fact, it was hard to find them right away because they were hidden. Then we heard this very tiny bark and we saw them from a little hole the firefighters had opened in the wall. We expanded the hole and we pulled them out.”
The puppies, born Dec. 4, had survived in an air pocket by eating snow, Walter Milan, the spokesman for Italy’s elite Alpine rescue squad, told the Daily Beast. They are the offspring of Nuvola (Cloud) and Lupo (Wolf), who lived at the hotel and were popular with guests.
Like their lucky litter, Nuvola and Lupo also survived the avalanche, according to a Facebook post by Martina Rossi, who was a bartender at the hotel.
The three puppies raised the hopes and spirits of the rescuers. “If the puppies survived, humans could as well,” Milan told the Daily Beast. Firefighter Fabio Jerman agreed. “It’s an important sign of life, which gives us hope,” he said.
Sadly, no one else has been found alive. A week after the disaster, 24 bodies have been found and five people are still missing.
In addition to unusually heavy snowfall, the avalanche may have been caused by a series of earthquakes that struck the area the day before.
Last year, devastating quakes killed more than 300 people in Italy. Another fortunate four-legged survivor, a border collie pulled from the rubble two days after an earthquake struck in late October, is being trained to pay it forward as a rescue dog.
Photo credit: YouTube