Five people are now confirmed dead in an avalanche that struck an Italian hotel on 18 January.

However, as rescue operations continued on Saturday (21 January), a further four people were rescued from the Hotel Rigopiano, bringing the number of survivors to 11, including four children.

A mother and her daughter were the first to be freed after spending the past 43 hours trapped in the snow and the rubble. The two were able to light a fire to keep warm. A helicopter has taken the survivors to a nearby hospital, the Italian news agency said.

While not all of the survivors' names are known, local media reported one family was rescued. Giampaolo Parete, the man who escaped the avalanche as he had gone to his car to get a painkiller for his wife, was reunited with his wife and their two children.

The rescue operations have been continuing tirelessly throughout the night, at subzero temperatures, in the hope of finding the 30 people feared missing in the avalanche. Dogs have been deployed to help rescuers identify survivors.

"We need to dig for more than four or five metres before getting to the ground", said Matteo Gasparini of the alpine rescue service, as quoted by Ansa. Rescuers from northern Italy have been dispatched to help in the operations as bulldozers are busy clearing the mountain roads leading to the hotel.

The police is treating the case as "manslaughter" and is investigating the viability of the emergency plans local government had set up in the area. According to the Corriere della Sera, the earthquakes that shook the region on 18 January had prompted fears for an avalanche among the hotel residents, who had reportedly packed and were ready to leave.

They couldn't, because the snowplough needed to free the roads had not been dispatched. The hotel director Marco Del Rosso told the newspaper: "By 3pm they were ready with their luggage, they had checked-out, but the snowplough did not come, it had been postponed until 7pm." The avalanche hit around 5.30pm (4.30pm GMT) that evening, the Associated Press reported. Del Rosso's uncle Roberto, the hotel owner, is among the people missing.

The article was last updated with the latest information on 26 January. It previously reported that policeman Domenico di Michelangelo and his wife Marina Serraiocco had been rescued. However, the couple is among the casualties. Their 9-year-old Samuel was instead among the 11 survivors of the tragedy.