Death toll in Turkey avalanche disaster rises to 41

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Emergency service members work in the snow around overturned vehicles, near the town of Bahcesaray, Van province, eastern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. An avalanche slammed into a mountain road in the province, which borders Iran, wiping out a huge team of rescue workers sent to find two people missing in an earlier avalanche. (Yilmaz Sonmez/IHA via AP)

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ISTANBUL (AP) — The death toll from a pair of avalanches in eastern Turkey climbed to 41 Thursday, Turkey’s disaster and emergency agency said as search teams aided by sniffer dogs scanned the avalanche field for bodies.

The first avalanche late Tuesday killed five people in eastern Van province, which borders Iran. After about 300 emergency service workers were called to respond, a second avalanche struck the large rescue team near the town of Bahcesaray on Wednesday.

Turkish disaster agency AFAD said that along with the deaths, the double avalanche left 84 people injured, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said early Thursday that 47 people remained hospitalized, with six patients in intensive care but not critical condition.

Search crews at the avalanche field searched for the bodies of three people still missing, Turkish news agencies reported.

A ceremony was held for 11 military police officers, nine government-paid village guards and two firefighters in Van who were killed by the avalanches. Their coffins were sent to their hometowns for burial.

AFAD said controlled explosions were set off to trigger less-destructive avalanches. It said 180 personnel were working in the area.

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