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Avalanche in Turkey wipes out rescue team; 31 dead overall

Ankara: An avalanche slammed into a mountain road in eastern Turkey on Wednesday, wiping out a huge team of rescue workers sent to find people missing in an earlier avalanche. Officials said 26 emergency workers were killed, 53 were injured and others are still buried under the snow.

Wednesday's avalanche increased the overall death toll from the disaster to 31.

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

That snowslide killed five people and left two missing. Around noon Wednesday, the team was struck by the second avalanche.

Turkey's emergency and disaster management agency, AFAD, said 26 bodies were recovered from the mass of snow on the steep slope. Earlier Gov. Mehmet Emin Bilmez saideigh t military police officers, three government-paid village guards, three firefighters and nine volunteers were among the dead.

Emergency teams were searching for other colleagues who may still be buried under the snow, Bilmez said. He did not provide a figure.

Some 30 emergency workers were either pulled out of the heap of snow or escaped themselves and were hospitalized Wednesday, the Interior Ministry said. There was no further information on their conditions.

Video from the scene showed at least three overturned vehicles at the bottom of a hill during a snowstorm. Some rescuers were struggling to climb out of a steep incline while others dug frantically into the snow with shovels and pick-axes. Fog, heavy snow and strong winds were hampering the rescue efforts.

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