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Puppies found alive after hotel disaster raise hopes to find more survivors

When the Rigopiano Hotel (Gran Sasso, central Italy) was hit by an avalanche on Wednesday 18 January, it quickly turned into a deadly trap. The massive avalanche, likely caused by the bout of earthquakes that shook the area the previous days, made the structure collapse on itself and of course become covered with snow, making search and rescue efforts extremely difficult.

As of today (24 January) 11 people, including all four children present, have been rescued; 14 more have been found dead, and 15 are still missing. The more time passes, the weaker hope to find more survivors becomes; yesterday, however, there was what one the rescuers described as "a little ray of sunshine": the three pups of the hotel's dogs, Maremma Sheepdogs Lupo and Nuvola, have been found alive and well in the boiler room.

The puppies are reportedly well, will be given names by the rescuers and are soon to be reunited with their parents, who made it down the mountain soon after the avalanche. The fact the puppies were able to survive for five days has given everyone new hope that more people may still be alive in the hotel, surviving in air pockets inside the ravaged hotel. The bar and kitchen area especially, according to the rescuers, may be where the missing people have found refuge. The search and rescue operations continue, with the aid of search dogs.

"We must get in there - it's the only central area of the hotel, the one where most people likely were, where we haven't made it in yet," say the rescuers.

It is a frail hope, but it is hope: if three seven-week-old puppies could survive in there for days, then maybe so could more people.