Italy avalanche: Eight people found alive inside buried hotel

ROME — Rescuers located eight people alive Friday inside a Italian hotel that was buried under an avalanche, officials said.

The survivors included two girls.

Helicopters carrying equipment and medical personnel were called in to attempt to remove the survivors from the rubble and as much as 16 feet of snow. They had been trapped for more than 40 hours.

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"We always hoped to find someone alive," Titti Postiglione, of Italy's civil protection agency, told reporters. "The fact we found people alive after so many hours give us even more hope."

Earlier, fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari told Reuters that authorities were "talking to them."

Up to 30 people, including an unspecified number of children, were reported missing after an avalanche buried the four-star Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola on Wednesday.

The avalanche occurred after a series of magnitude 5.2 and higher earthquakes struck the region earlier in the day.

Two people who were outside of the building when the avalanche struck were rescued Thursday. Rescuers have also found two bodies.

Only sections of the hotel's spa and swimming area remained intact after the avalanche, according to Walter Milan, a member of the Alpine Rescue service.

The government is meeting on Friday and is expected to declare a state of emergency.

An investigation into the tragedy has been opened by a court in Pescara amid accusations that the emergency response was slow.

The first rescuers arrived amid a snow storm on skis early on Thursday morning, some 11 hours after the avalanche.

Graphiq