The hotel was engulfed by a two-metre (six-feet) high wall of snow late on Wednesday afternoon with the impact powerful enough to rip the three-storey building from its foundations and move it ten metres.
The hotel was engulfed by a two-metre (six-feet) high wall of snow late on Wednesday afternoon with the impact powerful enough to rip the three-storey building from its foundations and move it ten metres.

Rescuers have now found at least eight people, including two children, alive in the rubble of a hotel hit by an avalanche in Italy, according to Italian media citing local police sources.

Rescue personnel are working to free them from rubble where they have been trapped more than 40 hours, fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said. "They are alive and we are talking to them," Cari said, speaking from the scene.

Up to 30 people were reported missing after the avalanche destroyed the hotel in central Italy on Wednesday afternoon. So far two bodies have been found and Italian media said two other bodies had been located.

Two other survivors were outside the Hotel Rigopiano when the avalanche hit.

The Civil Protection department on Thursday held out hope for the search. "There is always hope - if there were no hope the rescuers wouldn't give everything they've got," said Fabrizio Curcio, head of the department.

Sabina Castelfranco has been following developments from the Italian city of Penne.

Disaster-hit region

The disaster struck hours after four earthquakes with magnitudes above 5 hit central Italy on Wednesday. The first rescuers only reached the hotel on skis at 4:30 on Thursday morning.

Titti Postiglione, head of the Civil Protection department's emergency office, said more snow could fall from peaks in the Gran Sasso mountain range because the temperature was rising, while further quakes were possible.

"This is an enormously complex rescue operation," she said.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni called for national unity, saying Italy was caught in an "unprecedented vice" of earthquakes and heavy snows.

Wednesday's quakes hit an area still recovering from a series of deadly tremors last year.

TRT World's Christine Pirovolakis reports.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies