Italy avalanche: 'Miracle' as children pulled from hotel rubble

Four children were among those pulled alive from under tonnes of snow and debris days after a hotel was crushed by an avalanche in Italy.

Dramatic images have emerged of the moment the youngsters and a woman were plucked to safety by rescue teams, who have been continuing their painstaking search of the shattered ruins for survivors following Wednesday's tragedy.

Overnight a further four people were found alive after careful digging amid fears buried air pockets could collapse.

The rescue of the two men and two women brings the total number of survivors to nine.

Fire service spokesman Luca Cari said the bodies of two women and a man have also been recovered, taking the known number of dead to five.

About 23 people still remain unaccounted for after the avalanche smashed into the spa hotel in the remote mountainous region of central Italy.

According to Italian media a number of voices have been heard under the rubble, but it is proving hard to locate them.

Mr Cari said rescue teams would continue the search until everyone was accounted for.

Following the latest rescues, the mayor of the tiny town of Farindola, Ilario Lacchetta, said: "Today is a day of hope. There's a miracle under way."

The main road was blocked by heavy snow and rescuers have had to use skis to reach the scene.

Doctors at the hospital where survivors were being treated said they were in relatively good health, but were suffering from dehydration and relatively minor cases of hypothermia.

Relatives of those who are still missing have gathered at a hospital in Pescara, where they are anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones.

Some have expressed frustration at the lack of information they have received, and one person said their only source of news had been the internet.

Four powerful earthquakes struck the region on Wednesday, but it is unclear whether any of these triggered the avalanche just hours later.

Two people escaped the avalanche as they had been outside when disaster struck.

Prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation, with one line of inquiry being whether the avalanche threat had not been taken seriously enough.