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9 die in Kosovo avalanche; child survives

Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA

Members of Kosovo Security Force (KSF) and fire fighters search for a missing person at the site where an avalanche hit houses in the village of Restelica, Kosovo, Feb. 12. At least nine people died and one is missing after an avalanche hit the village of Restelica in southern Kosovo on Feb. 11. Police said some 15 houses were swallowed up by the avalanche but only two were occupied at the time.

AP

Members of Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) and fire fighters search for a missing person at the site where an avalanche hit houses in the village of Restelica, southern Kosovo, Sunday, Feb. 12. Rescuers pulled a 5-year-old girl alive from the rubble of a house flattened by a massive avalanche that killed both of her parents and at least seven of her relatives in the remote mountain village.

NATO peacekeepers, deployed in Kosovo to end the armed conflict between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians in 1999, had been called in to help local authorities in the rescue operation, but were unable to land a helicopter in the blizzard.

Rescuers — mostly local villagers using shovels — initially dug out the bodies of a married couple and their 17-year-old son. Six more bodies were discovered during the overnight and Sunday excavation.

"No bigger tragedy has ever struck this region," said local district official Behar Ramadani. "Two brothers with their wives and children have been killed."

--Reported by msnbc.com staff and wire services

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Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA

Members of Kosovo Security Force (KSF) carry an avalanche victim in the village of Restelica, Kosovo, Feb. 12.