Three shaggy puppies were found alive in the rubble of a mountain hotel, five days after an avalanche hit central Italy. Rescuers dug the white Abruzzo sheepdog pups out of piles of snow and rubble, where they had found refuge in the remains of the boiler room of the now-flattened Hotel Rigopiano.
"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."
The month-old puppies were born to the hotel's resident dogs, Nuvola and Lupo. The parent dogs had found a way out of the hotel after the avalanche, but the pups were left behind.
Rescuers had been digging and searching by hand for the 20 people still missing after the avalanche. Discovering the puppies offered some hope that others might still be found.
Firefighter spokesman Luca Cari, however, said that finding the puppies in an isolated part of the hotel didn't necessarily mean there was hope for finding more human survivors.
"We're happy to have saved them, and these are important moments in a dramatic situation," he told the AP. "But I don't think there's much correlation with finding other people."
But finding the puppies was, "a ray of light in the midst of so much pain," rescuer Marini wrote on Facebook. "Tears and joy from all of us!!!"