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Rescuers given fresh hope as survivors found alive in avalanche hotel's kitchen

Up to eight people located days after huge snowslide in Italian resort

By Staff Reporter

Rescue crews have located up to eight people alive in the kitchen of a hotel crushed by an avalanche in Italy, boosting spirits two days after the massive snowslide buried around 30 people in the resort.

Video released by rescuers showed a boy wearing blue ski trousers and a matching shirt emerging from the hotel and crews mussing his hair in celebration.

Next was a woman with a long ponytail wearing red ski trousers. "Brava Brava!" the rescuers cheered.

The survivors appeared fully alert and were walking on their own, but both were helped down to a stretcher for a helicopter ride out of the area.

"This first news has obviously repaid all the rescuers' efforts," deputy interior minister Filippo Bubbico said.

An Italian firefighter suggested rescue crews had found indications of other survivors under the rubble.

Giuseppe Romano declined to confirm suggestions of another five possible survivors, but said: "Other people have responded to our signals."

There was some discrepancy in the number of people who have been rescued.

The Ansa news agency quoted the vice brigadier of Italy's financial police, Marco Bini, as saying eight people were located alive in two operations.

The deputy interior minister, however, claimed that the number was six.

The civil protection operations chief also said six, two of whom - a woman and a boy - have been airlifted out.

Titi Postiglione, operations chief of the civil protection agency, said the survivors "can give us a series of indications to help with our intervention plan, information to understand what happened and help direct the search".

Rescue workers told RAI state television the survivors' condition was remarkably good and that they had survived thanks to an air pocket in the kitchen. They were yesterday being flown by helicopter to local hospitals.

About 30 people were trapped inside the luxury Hotel Rigopiano when the avalanche hit on Wednesday afternoon, with two people initially surviving the devastation and calling for help.

Search and rescue teams maintained the hope of finding survivors even though the avalanche dumped up to 17ft of snow on the hotel.

"We are hoping that the ceiling collapsed partially in some places and that someone remained underneath," rescuer Lorenzo Gagliardi said.

Four bodies have been found so far.

The operation has been hampered by difficulty in accessing the remote hotel.

Workers have been clearing a 5.5-mile road to bring in heavier equipment, but the route can only cope with one-way traffic. A convoy of rescue vehicles made slow progress to the hotel, blocked by snow piled 10ft high in some places, fallen trees and rocks.

The first rescue teams arrived on skis early on Thursday, and firefighters were dropped in by helicopter.

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