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Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press
Alessio Feniello, center, the father of Stefano, one of the 23 missing persons of the hotel Rigopiano, is escorted by Finance police officers as he is mobbed by journalists outside the Pescara hospital, central Italy, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2017. Rescue crews are considering whether to start using heavy equipment to speed up the search for 23 people still buried under the ruins of a central Italy hotel crushed by an avalanche.

FARINDOLA, Italy — Rescue crews say they have found three puppies alive in the rubble of an Italian mountain hotel slammed by an avalanche.

Firefighter spokesman Fabio German said the discovery signals that there are still chances of finding some of the 23 people still buried under the snow alive. Emergency crews have held out hope that survivors found air pockets under the tons of snow and rubble.

So far nine people have been rescued from the snow-covered Hotel Rigopiano, which was hit by up to 60,000 tons of snow on Jan. 18. Six others at the hotel have died.

But more than a day has passed since anyone has been pulled out alive. Conditions at the site are deteriorating, with the snow turning to ice.