[UPDATE] Avalanches kill at least 38 including rescuers in Turkey’s east: report

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PHOTO: DHA

Two avalanches in eastern Turkey have killed at least 38 people, as rescuers searching for survivors of the first slide were buried hours later by the second, The New York Times reported, citing Turkish media.

The first avalanche, on Tuesday, barreled into a passenger van, sweeping it off a road and down a steep slope in a mountainous area of Van province.

As dozens of rescuers looked early Wednesday for victims still buried under the snow, another avalanche struck, killing at least 23 people — eight soldiers, three village guards, three firefighters and nine civilians who had joined the rescue efforts — said Mehmet Mein Biles, the governor of Van.

Officials estimated that 10 to 15 people were still missing, but Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said the number was uncertain because officials did not know how many civilians had joined the rescue effort.

About 30 survivors have been pulled from the snow, according to Turkish news reports. Among them were the provincial head of the disaster management agency and a former adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Some of those found alive were under as much as 16 feet of snow, Soylu said. Television broadcasts showed survivors, some struggling to walk, in the arms of their rescuers.

The footage also showed overturned vehicles, including a snow plow, and rescue teams scrambling over the snow and debris, prodding and digging with sticks and shovels — the only tools that could be safely used, Soylu said.

Additional rescue teams were deployed to the region, which is known for rough winter conditions. Biles told the state-run Anadolu new agency that more avalanches were possible.

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