January 20, 2017 - 15:53 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Rescuers have found six people alive in an Italian mountain hotel devastated by an avalanche two days ago, officials said on Friday, January 20, according to AFP.
Emergency workers were able to speak to the survivors and have called for helicopters to evacuate them after more than 40 hours under the rubble of the Hotel Rigopiano, in central Italy.
Federica Chiavaroli, a junior minister at the Justice ministry, confirmed the dramatic development to reporters in the nearby town of Penne, where the rescue effort was being coordinated and some relatives were anxiously awaiting news of missing loved ones.
"Six people have been found alive and they are being pulled out," the minister told AFP.
More than 25 people, including children, were thought to have been in the hotel when it was hit by a massive wall of snow.
Updated estimates on Friday suggested the total could be as high as 34 -- some 20 or 22 guests, seven or eight staff and an unknown number of casual visitors to the four-star, three-storey hotel.
Most of the guests were in or around the hotel's entrance at the time the avalanche struck in the late afternoon on Wednesday. They had been waiting for transport to take them home following earthquakes in the region earlier in the day.
Two dead bodies have been removed from the ruins since the first rescuers reached the hotel in the early hours of Thursday.