Get all your news in one place
100’s of premium titles. One news app. Zero ads. Just $10 per month.

Avalanches kill nearly 40 in eastern Turkey

The bodies of more than two dozen rescue workers and civilians were discovered in Van province, where they had been helping dig out a minibus buried by a first avalanche late Tuesday. ©AFP

Ankara (AFP) - At least 33 people were killed in eastern Turkey Wednesday by a second avalanche which buried a team of rescuers searching for people hit by the first the day before.

The bodies of 33 rescue workers and civilians were discovered in Van province, where they had been helping dig out a minibus buried by snow late Tuesday, the government's disaster agency AFAD said.

Five people aboard the vehicle were killed, taking the overall toll to 38. Eight people had been rescued alive from the first avalanche.

Television images showed dozens of people scrambling up the mountains, digging through snow in blizzards to find those trapped under the snow.

The number of those injured was 53 in total after the second avalanche hit after 0900 GMT between Bahcesaray and Catak districts, AFAD said.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned the number of casualties could rise as local media reported an unknown number of people could still be under the snow.

The rescuers had been searching for two people from Tuesday's incident, AFAD's Van province chairman Osman Ucar told reporters from his hospital bed.

He was among those injured including former ruling party MP for Van, Gulsen Orhan, who now advises President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Van governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said rescue efforts continued despite the difficult winter conditions causing transport problems with heavy snow continuing to fall on the mountainside.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said rescuers had paused overnight and resumed their efforts Wednesday morning to find the last two people.

Authorities were alerted to the first avalanche when snow-clearing vehicle operator Bahattin Karagulle escaped from his snow-covered machine and informed officials of what had happened, Milliyet daily reported.

Rescuers sent from Ankara

The AFAD agency sent dozens of rescue workers after the first disaster while gendarmerie officers and firefighters provided assistance.

Local media reported that residents in nearby areas also joined the rescue efforts in an area difficult to reach in harsh winter conditions.

Television images showed dozens of people scrambling up the mountains, digging through snow in blizzards to find those caught under the snow.

A special military plane with 75 gendarmerie officers and other rescue officials were on their way from Ankara, AFAD and the defence ministry said.

Erdogan spoke to Soylu to obtain information on the efforts, the presidency said.

The president's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, also said on Twitter that "every tool available was mobilised" to help officials.

Christian Berger, the EU ambassador to Turkey, offered his "deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences" as did the US embassy to Turkey on Twitter.

Last month, the eastern province of Elazig was hit by a powerful 6.7-magnitude earthquake, killing 41 people and injuring over 1,600 others.

A 2009 avalanche in the northeastern province of Gumushane killed 11 climbers in the Zigana mountains.

Related Stories
Second avalanche in eastern Turkey kills dozens of rescuers
Two avalanches in eastern Turkey have killed 38 people, most of them buried by the second downslide while working to…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
13 Killed in Two Avalanches in Eastern Turkey
An avalanche slammed into a mountain road in eastern Turkey on Wednesday, wiping out a huge team of rescue workers…
Turkey avalanche: At least 21 killed after rescue workers are buried under snow
More than 50 people were trapped after a minibus was left stuck under the snow in Bahcesaray, eastern Turkey, in…
At least 28 dead following two avalanches in eastern Turkey
Emergency crews continue to search for others who may be buried in the snow
Turkey avalanche: At least 33 rescue workers killed and dozens buried under snow
Search teams were looking for missing people following earlier avalanche when they were struck by second snow slip
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Turkey avalanches: At least 38 people dead and dozens hurt
Around 300 rescue workers are on the site of a mountain in Turkey where two avalanches have struck