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33 rescue workers killed and dozens injured amid second Turkey avalanche

A huge team of rescue workers had been sent to find people missing in an earlier avalanche.

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Emergency service members work in the snow around overturned vehicles in eastern Turkey (Yilmaz Sonmez/IHA via AP)

Emergency service members work in the snow around overturned vehicles in eastern Turkey (Yilmaz Sonmez/IHA via AP)

Emergency service members work in the snow around overturned vehicles in eastern Turkey (Yilmaz Sonmez/IHA via AP)

An avalanche has slammed into a mountain road in eastern Turkey, wiping out a huge team of rescue workers sent to find people missing in an earlier avalanche.

Officials said 33 emergency workers were killed, 53 were injured and others are still buried under the snow.

Wednesday’s avalanche increased the overall death toll from the disaster to 38.

Some 300 emergency service workers were called to a road near the mountain-surrounded town of Bahcesaray in Van province, which borders Iran, after an avalanche struck late on Tuesday.

That snow slide killed five people and left two missing.

At around noon on Wednesday, the team was struck by the second avalanche.

Turkey’s emergency and disaster management agency AFAD said 33 bodies were recovered from the mass of snow on the steep slope.

Earlier, governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said the dead included eight military police officers, three government-paid village guards, three firefighters and nine volunteers.

Emergency teams were still searching for other colleagues under the snow, Mr Bilmez said.

Emergency service members dig in the snow around overturned vehicles near the town of Bahcesehir in eastern Turkey
Emergency service members dig in the snow around overturned vehicles (DHA via AP)

He did not provide a figure of how many more could be missing.

Some 30 emergency workers were either pulled out of the heap of snow or escaped themselves and were taken to hospital, the Interior Ministry said.

Video from the scene showed at least three overturned vehicles at the bottom of a hill during a snowstorm.

Some rescuers were struggling to climb out of a steep incline while others dug frantically into the snow with shovels and pickaxes.

Fog, heavy snow and strong winds were hampering the rescue efforts.

The head of AFAD’s operations in Van province, Osman Ucar, was among those injured.

Speaking from his hospital bed, he said he was dragged along with an excavator that was toppled by the sliding snow.

Emergency service members dig in the snow around at least three overturned vehicles near the town of Bahcesehir in Van province, eastern Turkey
Rescue efforts have been hampered by fog, heavy snow and strong winds (DHA via AP)

“I was half-buried,” he said, adding that he escaped on his own.

The first avalanche buried a snow-clearing vehicle and a minibus.

The vehicle’s operator and seven passengers escaped alive.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the driver, Bahattin Karagulle, was trapped beneath the snow for 25 minutes before he managed to break a window and escape.

He walked towards a village to get help before being picked up by a passing vehicle.

PA