More than 24 hours after an avalanche struck a luxury Italian hotel, hopes of finding survivors continued to dwindle.

Up to 35 people, including four children, are trapped under tonnes of snow and rubble in the Hotel Rigopiano in the town of Farindola after four earthquakes hit central Italy on Wednesday (18 January).

The Civil Protection has worked restlessly to get to the victims but so far, but only two bodies have been recovered.

Head of the department Fabrizio Curcio said that despite the odds, his workers would continue their rescue operation.

"There is always hope, if there were no hope the rescuers wouldn't give everything they've got," he said according to Reuters.

He added his teams would "continue to do everything possible during the night," despite worsening conditions. More snow is expected to fall and further earthquakes are possible.

First images of the disaster show the hotel completely covered in snow, with only a fraction of the destroyed building visible from its surroundings.

Rescue workers spoke about the complexity of the operation.

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

Sniffer dogs also helped with the rescue mission, but no one has been found alive inside. The only two survivors are two men who had been outside when the avalanche hit.

"I am alive because I went to get something from my car," Giampiero Parete told Italian media. His wife and two children, aged six and eight, are among those inside.

"This is a tragedy of enormous proportions," said the Italian health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin.