ROME, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- The number of victims in the avalanche that crushed a ski resort last week has risen to at least 17, Italian media reported on Tuesday.
The official death toll had been updated to 14 by the Italian civil protection department coordinating rescue efforts on Tuesday morning. After that, at least three more bodies were pulled out from the ruins of the hotel throughout the day.
When the avalanche hit in mid-afternoon on Jan. 18, there were 40 people inside the facility: namely, 28 guests and 12 employees, local authorities have said.
A previous estimate had put the number at around 30.
So far, eleven people survived the incident, including nine saved by rescuers. Four children were also involved, and all of them were among those rescued.
Fire and civil protection teams were working non-stop at the site to try to locate the other 12 people still missing. The search operation would continue until all of them were found, the civil protection said.
Meanwhile, funerals were held on Tuesday for some of those who died in the disaster. People crowded the local church of Farindola, the town nearest to the ski resort, to pay their respects to Alessandro Giancaterino, 42, a waiter of the Rigopiano, Ansa news agency reported.
The same happened in the nearby town of Penne for Gabriele D'Angelo, 31, another employee.
The Rigopiano hotel, a luxury ski resort, was located on the lower slopes of 2,912-meter-tall Gran Sasso peak in the central Abruzzo region.
The huge avalanche materially uprooted the facility, which remained engulfed under metres of snow, mud, and rubble. Two guests were outside the hotel, when the snowslide occurred, and survived. They were able to launch the first SOS call.
The disaster was believed to be triggered by four powerful earthquakes that struck the Abruzzo region on Jan. 18 in the morning.
All four seismic events were above 5 of magnitude on the Richter scale, with epicenters between the provinces of Rieti and L'Aquila, according to Italy's National Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (INGV).