A five-year-old girl has been rescued from under 33ft of snow and rubble in Kosovo, after a massive avalanche flattened her house and killed both her parents and at least seven of her relatives.
The Associate Press bureau in Kosovo says the avalanche happened in Restelica, a remote mountain village near Kosovo's border with Macedonia and Albania. It buried seven houses, two of which were inhabited.
"No bigger tragedy has ever struck this region," local district official Behar Ramadani told reporters. "Two brothers with their wives and children have been killed."
Villagers and officers from the Kosovo Security Forces used shovels to frantically dig for survivors amid a heavy snowstorm and subfreezing temperatures.
They had almost given up hope when they heard a voice and a cell phone under the rubble. Ten hours after rescue attempts began, five-year-old Asmira Reka was pulled found alive.
A video aired on Klan Kosova TV showed the rescuers pulling the girl out and covering her with blankets, before she was rushed to hospital.
AP says that NATO peacekeepers, deployed in Kosovo since the armed conflict between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians in 1999, had been called in to help with the rescue, but they were unable to land their helicopter due to a fierce blizzard.
Heavy snow has fallen in the Balkan region for the last forthnight; roads to Restelica and neighbouring villages were cut-off for several days prior to the avalanche.
Europe has been experiencing a severe cold snap since the end of January, and hundreds of people across the continent have already died because of the extreme weather.
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