The first avalanche buried a snow-clearing vehicle and a minibus, killing five people and leaving two others missing. The second avalanche struck as emergency workers were searching for the two missing victims.

Search and rescue works continue in Bahcesaray district of Turkey's eastern Van province on February 05, 2020.
Search and rescue works continue in Bahcesaray district of Turkey's eastern Van province on February 05, 2020. (AA)

A second avalanche slammed into a mountain road in eastern Turkey on Wednesday, killing at least 33 rescuers, officials said and leaving around a dozen others buried under the snow. 

The emergency crew had been sent to the site to find two people missing in a previous avalanche that killed five people.

Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) said 33 rescuers were killed while others were still buried under the snow, raising the death toll from twin disasters to at least 38. 

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

Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said around 25 emergency service members were rescued from under the snow and hospitalised on Wednesday. 

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 30 people were rescued and taken to hospital.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 30 people were rescued and taken to hospital. (AA)

Double trap

The first avalanche buried a snow-clearing vehicle and a minibus. The vehicle's operator and seven passengers escaped alive.

The region's governor said the snow-clearing vehicle's operator and six people inside the minibus survived.

Operator, Bahattin Karagulle, was trapped beneath the snow for some 25 minutes before he managed to break a window and escape. 

Reports said he walked toward a village before he was picked up by a vehicle and managed to seek help.

Defence Ministry says an aircraft belonging to Turkish Armed Forces, and 75 rescue workers from AFAD (Disaster and Emergency Management Agency) and Gendarmerie personnel and necessary equipment were deployed from Ankara to Van.
Defence Ministry says an aircraft belonging to Turkish Armed Forces, and 75 rescue workers from AFAD (Disaster and Emergency Management Agency) and Gendarmerie personnel and necessary equipment were deployed from Ankara to Van. (AA)

The second avalanche struck when emergency workers were searching for the two missing victims, Turkish television channel NTV reported, adding fog and heavy snow were hampering the rescue efforts.

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

Some rescuers were climbing a steep incline to get out of the mass of snow while others dug frantically into the snow with shovels and pick-axes

Source: TRTWorld and agencies