Last week an earthquake shook a ski resort in Italy, leaving one hotel being hit by 60,000 tonnes of snow.

In the days following the natural disaster some people have been found, yet there are still 22 missing.

Rescuers were given a new glimmer of hope this week after making an unexpected discovery.

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A rescue team have recovered three shaggy white Abruzzo sheepdog puppies under the rubble – meaning there was still air pockets under the collapsed building, an important sign of life that gives hope for more human survivors to be found.

Fabio Jerman, the firefighter who made the fluffy discovery said the find was “an important sign of life, which gives us hope.”

“We knew these dogs were there but we did not know where exactly,” one rescuer said.

“When we understood where they were, we warned the firemen, who were allowed to enter the structure. We located them in the boiler room. Now the priority is to get them seen by a veterinarian, even if at first glance it seems that they are in very good health.”

The puppies were born in December to hotel dogs, Lupo and Nuvola, who ran off as soon as the avalanche hit – luckily the doting parents were found the following day in a nearby village.

Despite being buried for 5 days, the puppies were said to be in good health and rescuers were cheered when onlookers spotted them with the animals in their arms.

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“They just started barking very softly,” said Sonia Marini, a member of the Forestry Corps.

“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.”

“We’re happy to have saved them, and these are important moments in a dramatic situation,” she said. “But I don’t think there’s much correlation with finding other people.”

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Emergency services have been hoping the 22 missing people will have also found air pockets under the debris and that the snow would insulate them from the freezing temperatures.

So far nine people have been rescued from the hotel – but it has been two days since the last human recovery and the heavy snow is slowly turning into ice.

Here’s to hoping many more people are found and the puppies will soon get a new home.