Second avalanche buries search team, kills at least 33

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An avalanche slammed into a mountain road in the eastern province of Van on Feb. 5, wiping out a huge team of rescue workers sent to find two people missing in an earlier avalanche.

At least 33 people including security officers killed and 53 others were injured.

The dead victims included at least eight gendarmerie personnel, three security guards, three firefighters and nine civilians, according to Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez.

Intense search and rescue efforts were ongoing, and 15 more ambulances were sent to the region amid risk of new avalanches, he added.

Bahçesaray Mayor Meki Arvas said a team of 300 people had been working to rescue people trapped under an earlier snowslide on Feb. 4, when a second avalanche occurred at 12:02 p.m. on Feb. 5.

At least five people were killed in the first avalanche on Feb. 4, officials said. It took place in Van’s Bahçesaray district during bad weather and struck a minibus traveling the Van-Bahçesaray highway.

A score of Turkish search and rescue team members who were engulfed by snow were rescued in a short while. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said 30 them were taken to hospital.

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

AFAD said that 59 of its search and rescue experts were dispatched to the area initially. A gendarmerie team of 75 rescue experts, 10 National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) members and firefighters accompanied them, it added.

Hurriyet Daily News

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