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Avalanche kills at least 21, leaves others trapped in eastern Turkey

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By Reuters  with NBC News World News
Image: Emergency service members carry a casualty at the site of avalanche
Emergency service members carry a casualty at the site of avalanche near the town of Bahcesehir, in Van province, eastern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020.   -   Copyright  Yilmaz Sonmez

ISTANBUL, Turkey — An avalanche in eastern Turkey killed at least 21 people, including military police and civilians who were working to rescue victims of an earlier snowslide, the local governor said on Wednesday.

Mehmet Emin Bilmez, governor of the eastern province of Van, said some 30 people had been pulled out from under the snow.

More people are believed to be still trapped, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said earlier, without giving a number.

Emergency service members carry a casualty at the site of avalanche near the town of Bahcesehir, in Van province, eastern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020.
Emergency service members carry a casualty at the site of avalanche near the town of Bahcesehir, in Van province, eastern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020.Yilmaz Sonmez

TV footage from Van's Bahcesaray district showed dozens of people using shovels and sticks in snowfall and high winds to dig out buried vehicles, and other overturned vehicles.

Soylu said the conditions in the area made it difficult for rescue vehicles to operate, adding a vehicle had been pulled out from under 4-5 meters (16 feet) of snow.

Rescue teams were working to rescue people trapped under an earlier avalanche that struck on Tuesday, killing five people. Eight people were rescued from that avalanche and the second snowslide occurred as teams were searching for two others.