Local media has reported that rescuers have found 10 people alive in the Italian hotel hit by an avalanche on Wednesday. Rescue teams are mobilizing to pull them out from the snow.
Rescue crews in Central Italy found 10 survivors in the rubble of a flattened hotel resort, two days after it was thrashed by an avalanche.
They were able to speak to the survivors, who were saved by air pockets in the rubble, and are working to free them from the snow. Among the survivors are thought to be two young girls.
Rescuers hope to find more survivors in the rubble.
Firefighter Giuseppe Romano said, "Other people have responded to our signals."
Helicopters and an air ambulance have been dispatched to site with equipment and doctors to help in the evacuation.
"They are alive and we are talking to them," Fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari told news agency Reuters.
About 30 people, including children, are thought to have been in the Rigopiano three-storey spa hotel in the Gran Sasso National Park when it was struck by an avalanche Wednesday evening, burying it under five meters (16.4 feet) of snow.
Hopes of more survivors
Footage filmed by the rescuers and broadcast on Italian television showed many of the rooms remained intact, raising hopes of more survivors.
Titti Postiglione, a Civil Protection official, said "finding these people gives us further hope there are other survivors."
Rescuer Lorenzo Gagliardi told Italian channel SKY Tg24: "We are hoping that the ceiling collapsed partially in some places and that someone remained underneath."
Rescuers reportedly first made contact with the survivors at 11:00 am local time (1000 UTC)
Local public broadcaster RAI reported that the survivors were found in one of the hotel's attics.
Mishandled emergency response
The avalanche was triggered by a series of powerful magnitude-5 earthquakes in the central Italian region of Abruzzo on Wednesday.
Two dead bodies were removed from the ruins when rescuers first reached the hotel in the early hours of Thursday. Local public broadcaster RAI reported that two bodies were found but have not yet been removed.
Local media has also reported that prosecutors in Pescara have opened a manslaughter investigation into the incident amid accusations that the avalanche threat was not taken seriously enough and emergency services were slow to respond. The first rescuers reached the site some 11 hours after the avalanche struck.
Giampiero Parete, one of two guests who were outside the hotel and managed to escape the avalanche, said he called his boss, Quintino Marcella, to tell him the hotel had collapsed and to ask for help. However, Marcella told RAI that local prefecture did not immediately believe him and was only assured help was the way to the site around two hours later. Parete's wife and two children, aged six and eight, remain missing.
The Italian government is expected to declare a state of emergency later on Friday.
dm/jm (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)