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Turkey avalanche: At least 33 rescue workers killed and dozens buried under snow

At least 33 rescue workers have been killed after a huge avalanche slammed into a mountain road in Turkey, wiping out a rescue team. 

The rescuers, who included military police and volunteers, had been searching for missing people following an earlier deadly avalanche in the eastern province of Van.

Some 300 emergency workers were sent to the road near the town of Bahcesehir to look for survivors after the first avalanche struck late on Tuesday, killing at least five people.

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Turkey's emergency and disaster management agency said 33 bodies were recovered from the mass of snow on the steep slope. Earlier, Van province's governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said the dead included eight military police officers, three government-paid village guards, three firefighters and nine volunteers

Rescuers were searching for others still believed to be trapped. It was unclear how many more could be missing.

Some 30 emergency workers were either pulled out of the heap of snow or escaped themselves and were taken to hospital on Wednesday, the interior ministry said. There was no further information on their conditions.

TV footage showed dozens of people using shovels and pick-axes to dig into the snow and at least three overturned vehicles at the bottom of a hill.

The rescue operation was being hampered by heavy snowfall, fog and strong winds. One rescue vehicle was pulled out from under 16ft of snow, according to Turkey's interior minister, Suleyman Soylu.

The first avalanche buried a snow-clearing vehicle and a minibus. Seven passengers survived along with the driver, who was reportedly trapped for 25 minutes before managing to break a window of the vehicle and escape.

The second avalanche struck as workers were searching for two people who remained missing following the first.