Members of the Italian mountain rescue team, the Nazionale Soccorso Alpino and Speleologico, with the volunteers and rescuers who worked in the area where a snow avalanche swept the Rigopiano Hotel near Farindola in central Italy on 22 January 2017. ANSA via AP

Rescuers are beginning to consider using heavy machinery to speed up the search for the 23 people who remain buried beneath the ruins of a hotel crushed by a snow avalanche in central Italy.

Emergency teams are working with the “operational hypothesis” that the “tons of snow that crushed the Hotel Rigopiano on January 18 may not have reached all parts of the structure, so there may still be survivors underneath”, explained Luca Cari, Spokesman for the fire department.

But five days after the devastating avalanche, “we are fighting against time,” added Cari.

“We know we have to work fast, but the environment does not allow us to intervene quickly,” he said.

On the other hand, questions are intensified as to whether the local government underestimated the threats posed by the isolated hotel.

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