Avalanche rescue continues as crews mourn colleagues

PENNE, Italy -- Rescue crews recovered several more bodies from the rubble of a hotel crushed by an avalanche Wednesday, bringing the toll to 21, even as they mourned colleagues who were killed in a nearby helicopter crash.

The emergency helicopter slammed into a mountainside Tuesday as its crew was rescuing an injured skier. The two pilots, three crew and the skier were killed. Some of the rescue team onboard had been working at the avalanche site some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away up until Monday.

Avalanche recovery crews reported the toll from the Jan. 18 disaster at the Hotel Rigopiano stood at 21 dead, with eight people unaccounted for under the tons of snow and rubble. Search operations continued.

Premier Paolo Gentiloni is to brief parliament later Wednesday on the series of earthquakes, heavy snowfall and the avalanche that have pummeled central Italy in recent days and weeks, and the round-the-clock response by civil protection, firefighter and emergency crews. (AP)

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