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  • Members of Lazio's Alpine and Speleological Rescue Team stand in front of the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, Jan. 19, 201

    Members of Lazio's Alpine and Speleological Rescue Team stand in front of the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, Jan. 19, 201 | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 January 2017

Rescue workers have yet to find a sign of life in aftermath of the disaster that struck soon after four earthquakes hit central Italy.

A huge avalanche swallowed up a luxury mountain hotel in central Italy after a series of strong earthquakes rocked the area, burying up to 30 people under tons of snow and debris, officials said on Thursday.

Italian media said three bodies had been retrieved from the site. Rescue workers declined to comment on the reports, but said they had yet to find any sign of life.

The gabled peaks of parts of the roof and a row of windows were the only sections of the four-story Hotel Rigopiano still visible after the wall of snow smashed into the four-star spa resort early on Wednesday evening.

Local authorities said about 30 people had been in the building at the time, including two children, but more than 20 hours later, only a couple of survivors had been found -- two men who had been outside when the disaster struck.

"The hotel is almost completely destroyed. We've called out but we've heard no replies, no voices," said Antonio Crocetta, a member of the Alpine Rescue squad who was on the scene.

"We're digging and looking for people," he told Reuters by phone from the isolated location in the Gran Sasso mountain range in the central Abruzzo region.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni called for national unity, saying Italy was caught in an "unprecedented vice" of earthquakes and heavy snows simultaneously.

The disaster struck just hours after four earthquakes with a magnitude of above 5.0 hit central Italy, sparking fears about possible avalanches.

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