Istanbul — At least 33 people have been killed by two avalanches near Turkey's eastern city of Van. At least 12 of those killed were part of a search and rescue team hit by the second avalanche as they tried to find a group of people missing after the first.
Governor of Van Mehmet Emin Bilmez said nine people were serious injured and being treated in regional hospitals.
About 200 emergency workers were deployed to the mountainous area of Bahcesehir when an avalanche struck late on Tuesday, killing five people. The teams were searching for two missing people when the second avalanche occurred.
Osman Ucar, the local head of Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Agency (AFAD), was among those trapped in his vehicle under the second avalanche.
"I had to dig myself out," he told local media from his hospital bed.
His agency reported that 26 people were killed and 53 injured in the second incident.
Gulsen Orhan, an advisor to the Turkish president, was also rescued from under the snow and was being treated for unspecified injuries.
There were still believed to be people trapped under the snow, but the exact number was not clear.
"We guess there are 10-15 more people are still under the avalanche," said Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu as he made his way to the site.
Soylu said 30-35 rescue workers had been dug out so far.
Efforts to find more survivors continued, but a warning was issued earlier that there could be further avalanches. Bad weather conditions were also posing a challenge to the search and rescue efforts.
Veysi Ay an official with the AFAD, told CBS News that while they were struggling with the weather conditions, they are not planning to stop and will continue to search for survivor into the night.