The death toll rose to 41 from two avalanches in eastern Turkey, according to authorities on Feb. 6.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said that 75 people were injured in the avalanches as search and rescue efforts are ongoing.
The dead victims included at least eight gendarmerie personnel, three security guards, three firefighters and nine civilians, according to Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez.
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.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed deep sorrow over those who died in a passenger plane crash and avalanche in Turkey.
“I wish Allah’s mercy upon our citizens who lost their lives in these incidents and a speedy recovery to the injured,” Erdoğan said on Twitter.
“We will further strengthen our preparation for disasters, quickly heal our wounds, embrace and support our citizens, families of our martyrs and veterans affected by disasters and accidents,” Erdoğan underlined.
EU, Greece, Georgia, U.S. send condolences
Meanwhile, Greece, Georgia, and the EU delegation in Turkey conveyed condolences over the avalanche tragedy in Van.
Head of the EU delegation to Turkey Ambassador Christian Berger expressed “deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences on the loss of lives in the avalanche in Van”.
“Our thoughts go out to the people of Turkey, especially to the families of the lost ones,” Berger said on Twitter.
“We wish emergency response services success in their rescue effort,” he added.
Greek Foreign Ministry said on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by the tragic news of the #avalanche accident in Eastern Turkey.”
“We express our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families & to the people & government of #Turkey. Our thoughts are with the families of the missing & the rescue teams fighting to save lives,” the ministry added.
Foreign Ministry of Georgia expressed “great sadness and sorrow” over the avalanche tragedy in eastern Turkey.
“We would like to convey our heartfelt condolences, solidarity, and sympathy to the families of victims affected by the avalanche,” the ministry added.
The U.S. also offered its condolences over recent deadly incidents in Turkey.
“The United States sends its heartfelt condolences to the people of #Turkey, who are mourning two tragedies today: the avalanches in Van and the plane crash in #Istanbul,” the State Department said on Twitter.
Hurriyet Daily News