Italian avalanche rescuers found three puppies inside the damaged hotel Monday, renewing hope that more survivors from the incident nearly a week ago can still be found.
An avalanche, sparked by a series of earthquakes, buried the Rigopiano Hotel in Farindola, Italy last Wednesday, dumping tons of snow on the remote lodge, NBC News reported. Rescuers found the puppies in an air pocket in the hotel's boiler room, an Italian fire brigade said, according to the broadcaster.
The puppies' parents, Lupo and Nuvola, escaped the avalanche alive and were discovered in Farindola Friday by one of the hotel bartenders familiar with the sheepdogs, NBC News noted. Italy's National Animal Protection Agency told the network that they were working to reunite the family.
"They just started barking very softly," Sonia Marini, a member of the Forestry Corps, told The Associated Press. "In fact, it was hard to find them right away because they were hidden. Then we heard this very tiny bark and we saw them from a little hole the firefighters had opened in the wall. Then we expanded the hole and we pulled them out."
Twenty-two people remain missing after five days of digging out the collapsed luxury spa resort, Agence France-Presse reported. Firefighter Fabio Jerman told AFP that finding the dogs was an "important sign of life, which gives us hope."
Fire service spokesman Luca Cari added, though, that challenges remain in trying to find any additional survivors.
"It's a race against time, we know we need to go fast, but it's not an easy working environment," Cari said, according to AFP.
Rescuers have pulled nine people out of the hotel, who ate dirty snow in the pitch black to survive, according to AFP. Three survivors are still hospitalized, including two children,
Samuel Di Michelangelo and Edoardo Di Carlo, the AP reported.
The news service stated that officials confirmed the death of Edoardo's parents in the avalanche while Samuel's are unaccounted for.
"Edoardo has an adult brother, so the brother will be given custody of him," Pescara hospital medical director Dr. Rossano Di Luzio told reporters, according to the AP. "Samuel has his close relatives, grandparents at the moment, but we hope we can give him back to his parents."
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