By Savannah Smith  |  01-19-2017   News
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The determination of the search and rescue team looking for survivors of an avalanche at a mountain hotel in Italy is unrelenting despite the daunting challenges. Their search operation has gone into the night, with up to 35 people under rubble and snow.

Only two survivors have been identified so far, and they were outside the hotel at the time of the avalanche. Still, searchers said they are not ready to surrender hope yet in locating and rescuing survivors despite finding no signs of life. Rescuers had to battle the elements to reach the site. So far, three bodies were recovered from the ruins of the Rigopiano hotel, in the central Abruzzo region.

The avalanche struck on Wednesday, only hours after multiple earthquakes hit the region. Four of the earthquakes were stronger than magnitude 5, made worse because terrified residents of rural areas were already struggling with heavy snow fall at that time. Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni described the twin tragedies an " unprecedented vice of frost and earthquakes", and called for national security.

Rescuers continue to face daunting challenge in their search operation as teams had to ski and shovel their way towards the side of the avalanche, managing to reach the hotel at 4:30 am on Thursday. Massive snow blocking an approach road held up emergency vehicles.

The upper part of the hotel is completely gone. The hotel guests and staff are believed to be mostly on the first floor. There were also reports from the Italian media that guests at the hotel had checked out and were just waiting for the arrival of a snow plough to open up the road and allow them down the mountain. Unfortunately, the avalanche struck before they had been able to leave.

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