ISTANBUL - Eleven hikers were killed and six survived after they were caught in an avalanche in northeastern Turkey.
Local governor Enver Salihoğlu told private news channel NTV that two injured hikers were in good condition. The surviving hikers said the group consisted of 17 people and the governor said all of them had been pulled out of the snow. The search continued, however, in case any other people remained trapped.
Some witnesses said the avalanche came after a gun shot, however, a member of the Search and Rescue Association, or AKUT, said a gunshot is a weak possibility as a cause of the avalanche.
"Sudden weather changes should be calculated. It is a weak possibility for a gunshot to cause an avalanche," said AKUT member Yılmaz Sevgül. Nasuh Mahruki, the head of AKUT said the accident was a walking group accident, not a mountain climbing accident. "It is apparent that they hit the road without an avalanche test. It is very difficult for 16 to 17 people to remain under an avalanche," he said.
Governor Salihoğlu said the snow mass dragged climbers about 1,000 meters into a valley. The first television footage from the region showed military personnel and locals carrying a climber through deep snow as rescue operations continued on the snow-covered slopes. All the dimensions of the case were being investigated, said State Minister Murat Başesgioğlu.
Teams from the governor’s office, civilian defense, and the Highway Directorate rushed to the scene after local gendarmerie forces were notified of the avalanche around 11 a.m., said Faruk Nafiz Özak, minister of public works. AKUT’s Trabzon team also traveled to the location. The 17 climbers were from a sports club in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.
Erhan Terzi, one of the climbers who did not survive the avalanche, wrote on a Web site that, "Mountains call to me but my daughter does not let me go," reported the Anatolia news agency. Terzi was a lecturer at Karadeniz Teknik University. She was married three years ago and had a daughter aged one and a half. Terzi’s mother, Remziye Terzi, was hospitalized after she learned of her loss.