Thirty-three emergency workers trying to help victims of an avalanche in Turkey were killed on Wednesday after a second avalanche hit, burying them beneath snow, according to multiple reports.
In addition to the 33 dead, 53 people were injured after the avalanche “slammed into a mountain road” in the eastern Van province, which is on the border of Iran, around noon local time, the Associated Press reported.
The victims include military police officers, government-paid village guards, firefighters and volunteers, Van Gov. Mehmet Emin Bilmez said, according to the BBC.
Approximately 30 of those injured were either “pulled out of the heap of snow or escaped themselves and were hospitalized Wednesday,” the AP reported.
The initial avalanche on Tuesday killed five people, according to Reuters, and left two people missing, according to the AP.
That prompted the country to bring in about 300 emergency service workers to help search for victims in the snow, which buried a snow-clearing vehicle and a minibus, among other things.
The operator of that vehicle, as well as seven passengers, managed to escape, the AP reported.
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Osman Ucar, the head of operations for AFAD, Turkey’s emergency and disaster management agency, was reportedly among those injured on Wednesday.
He was hospitalized after being “half-buried” in the snow, and dragged down alongside an excavator that had toppled over as the snow slid down, he told the AP.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told Reuters that the tricky conditions in the area were making it difficult for rescue vehicles to operate, and that one vehicle was pulled out from under 16 feet of snow.