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Thursday January 19, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Around 30 tourists and staff were in Rigopiano hotel as the avalanche struck. Rescuers faced enoromous problems getting to the scene and have managed to save 8 adults and 2 children. The rescue operation is continuing. UPDATED

Rescuers said the survivors had been discovered buried under snow inside the hotel.

Four are children according to Italian media.

They were found more than 40 hours after the avalanche struck.

At least four people have been confirmed dead, and about 15 are still missing, as the rescue effort continues in difficult conditions.

Teams have been working at the scene for more than 24 hours in temperatures well below zero.

The survivors were found in an air pocket in the hotel.

The snow around them provided a steady temperature.

The rescued are suffering form shock and hypothermia but none has life-threatening injuries.

They were about to be evacuated from the hotel and many had packed and were settling bills when the avalanche struck.

A large number were in the lobby.

The survivors ate ice and snow to quench their thirst during the 58-hour ordeal.

Georgia Galassi, 22, is one of nine people to have been pulled out alive.

The BBC has reported her account from news agency sources.

"All the children behaved really well, I never heard them crying, " Georgia says.

She did, however, many times.

And she was full of praise towards her fiance, "who never had any doubt".

"He supported us all. Sometimes he would hum a song to soothe us."

Georgia told how they had had nothing to eat. "Nothing. The only thing we ate was ice. We had a lot and this kept us going."

"I lost count of time, and still haven't got it back. But I think it lasted two days, maybe a bit more," Georgia said. In all, she was trapped for 58 hours.

At 11:00 (10:00 GMT) on Friday, a mechanical sound was heard, then human voices.

To which she replied: "I am Georgia, and I am alive."

The avalanche hit the isolated Rigopiano Hotel close to the Gran Sasso mountain in the Abruzzo region of central Italy.

It is thought to have been triggered by a series of earthquakes on Wednesday which followed several days of heavy snow.

Up to 5 metres of snow has fallen on the Gran Sasso mountain in recent days.

The tremors started on Wednesday and it is reported that there was a 5.7 magnitude earthquake.

The region is still recovering from a deadly earthquake in August.

The area is not one of Italy's major ski destinations but is said to be a popular skiing area for Italians, especially families.

The BBC reported the head of the mountain rescue team, Antonio Crocetta saying there are "many deaths".

Hotel Rigopiano rescue operationRescue underway
















Rigopiano Hotel (photo: Virgili del Fuoco)Rigopiano Hotel (pic: Vigili del Fuoco)
















The roof of the hotel partly collapsed and local residents alerted emergency services.

However, the first rescuers to reach the scene had to arrive on skis through a fierce storm as the road had been blocked by the snow. 

The avalanche happened some time late afternoon on Wednesday, but the first rescuers did not arrive until after 4am Thursday local time.

Reports on Thursday night suggested between two and four people had pulled dead from the snow with between 25 and 30 still missing.

Two people were found alive outside the damaged building, and have been taken to hospital.

One of them, Giampaolo Parete, told the Ansa news agency that he gone out to get something from his car when the avalanche hit.

"I was covered by the snow but I managed to get out. The car was not submerged and I waited for the rescuers to arrive," he said.

He added that his wife and two children were under the rubble.

The helicopter footage below captures the rescue response vehicles attempting to reach hotel Rigopiano through the deep snow.

A snow plough slowly leads the way in the attempt to reach the mountain village of Farindola, Pescara province, after it was hit by the avalanche.

The deep snow is frustrating the rescue operation.

Some night footage below showing the emergency services battling through harsh conditions.

More footage below. The road is blocked as the emergency services try to reach Rigopiano Hotel.

Philip William speaks to France 24 on the conditions and the rescue operation on Thursday morning after the avalanche hit the Rigopiano Hotel.

You can read more on the BBC News website.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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