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30 people still missing at Italian hotel buried by massive avalanche

PENNE: Rescuers dug all night in deep snow and debris in search of some 30 missing people who were staying in a luxury mountain hotel in Italy when an avalanche struck almost two days ago.

Officials have confirmed finding two bodies, while Italian media said two more were located overnight. The only survivors so far are two men who were outside the hotel when the avalanche hit. Hopes of finding survivors are dwindling.

The disaster struck the hotel in central Italy late on Wednesday afternoon amid a driving snowstorm, just hours after four earthquakes with a magnitude above 5 rattled the area.

Fire brigade officials and local authorities said more than 30 people, including four children, had been in the building when the avalanche slammed into it, reducing much of it to rubble and spreading debris across the valley floor.

“We’re still looking,” Fire Brigade spokesman Luca Cari said by telephone from the scene of the tragedy on Friday. “Canine units are helping and we are digging.”

The government will meet on Friday morning and is expected to declare a state of emergency.

An investigation into the tragedy has been opened by a court in nearby Pescara, with some saying 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 hit.

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