Avalanche buries search team, 33 killed in Turkey (UPDATED)

Thu 06 Feb 2020 07:32 GMT | 11:32 Local Time

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Death toll rose to 33 after rescue workers were buried under an avalanche in eastern Turkey, authorities said on Wednesday, Anadolu Agency reports.

Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) reported the death toll from Wednesday's avalanche, adding, 53 people were injured in the disaster.

Mehmet Emin Bilmez, governor of the eastern Van province, said the deceased include civilians, gendarmes, village guards and fire fighters.

Bilmez said that the health conditions of nine of the rescued people were critical, while there was still no information on how many people are buried under the avalanche.

The rescue team members had been searching for survivors from an earlier avalanche in eastern Turkey on Tuesday when they themselves were engulfed by snow. The number of casualties from the team is as yet unclear.

Bilmez told Anadolu Agency that intense search and rescue efforts are ongoing, and 15 ambulances were sent to the region.

Risk avalanche remained high, he added.

"AFAD and National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) members were engulfed in an avalanche while looking for those trapped under snow this morning," said Bilmez.

At least five people were killed in the avalanche on Tuesday. With seven people rescued, two people were still missing.

Tuesday’s avalanche took place in the Van’s Bahcesaray district during bad weather and struck a minibus traveling the Van-Bahcesaray highway.

Ringed by gigantic mountains, Bahcesaray frequently faces harsh winter conditions.

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An avalanche in eastern Turkey killed at least 21 people, including military police and civilians who were working to rescue victims of an earlier snowslide, the local governor said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. 

Mehmet Emin Bilmez, governor of the eastern province of Van, said some 30 people had been pulled out from under the snow.

More people are believed to be still trapped, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said earlier, without giving a number.

TV footage from Van’s Bahcesaray district showed dozens of people using shovels and sticks in snowfall and high winds to dig out buried vehicles, and other overturned vehicles.

Soylu said the conditions in the area made it difficult for rescue vehicles to operate, adding a vehicle had been pulled out from under 4-5 meters (16 feet) of snow.

Rescue teams were working to rescue people trapped under an earlier avalanche that struck on Tuesday, killing five people. Eight people were rescued from that avalanche and the second snowslide occurred as teams were searching for two others.

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