Turkey avalanche: 38 killed as frantic search under way for people trapped under snow

A frantic search operation is under way for people trapped under snow in Turkey after an avalanche killed 33 people during a rescue mission following an earlier avalanche.

It takes the total death toll to 38, after both disasters struck a road near the mountain-surrounded town of Bahcesehir in Van province, eastern Turkey, on the border with Iran.

Hundreds of emergency workers had been sent to the site to rescue two people missing after the first avalanche struck on Tuesday, killing five people.

Those who died in the second avalanche on Wednesday included military police officers, government-paid village guards, firefighters and volunteers.

Authorities said 30 people had been rescued from under the snow and taken to hospital on Wednesday but more people are believed to be trapped.

TV footage showed dozens of people using shovels and sticks to dig out buried vehicles.

Turkey's interior minister Suleyman Soylu said the conditions in the area were making the rescue operation difficult, adding that a vehicle had been pulled out from under four to five metres (13-16ft) of snow.

The first avalanche on Tuesday buried a snow-clearing vehicle and a minibus.

The vehicle's operator and seven passengers escaped alive.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said the vehicle's operator was trapped beneath the snow for some 25 minutes before he managed to break a window and escape.

The agency quoted him as saying that he walked towards a village before he was picked up by a vehicle and managed to seek help.