New landslides Friday halted a search for around 100 people missing a day after tons of mud and debris crashed into a mountain village in northeastern Turkey.
Soon after rescue teams started work at 7:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. MDT),rocks began tumbling down the mountainside, hitting a truck and slightly injuring the driver, the Anatolia news agency said.Only one body was recovered Thursday before torrential rains set off fresh mudslides that stopped rescue efforts for the night.
Radio reports said 31 people were injured in the disaster Thursday in Catak village in Trabzon province, about 500 miles from Ankara and not far from the Black Sea.
Turkish newspapers Friday reported death tolls ranging between 50 and 200. They said five buses and two trucks were buried beneath tons of mud.
An announcement Thursday by the Turkish Red Crescent, a relief organization, that up to 300 people had been killed was denied by officials.
Radio reports said villagers heard people crying for help from beneath the debris.
Local authorities asked villagers to report the names of missing relatives and friends to a special rescue commission, the Anatolia agency said.
The agency said a 32-member team of West German volunteers arrived Friday to help in the rescue efforts, bringing 18 dogs trained to sniff out buried victims.
The worst slide sent mud and rock roaring down the mountainside onto at least three houses, four stores, a restaurant, a high school and a crowded coffeehouse, according to news agency reports.
The earth had been loosened by heavy rains in the region, where frequent landslides are sometimes blamed on extensive cutting of forests.
Catak village president Riza Yavuz was quoted as telling Turkish newspapers he had warned the Public Works Ministry of a landslide threat in the area, where a major highway construction project is under way but got no response.
One victim said the landslide came without warning.
"It happened all at once after a noise that sounded like thunder," Turan Alemdar, a truck driver who witnessed the disaster, was quoted as saying by the independent Hurriyet News Agency. "The rocks swept away everything in a second."
"I saw the mountain coming over me and started running away," Zeki Ilhan was quoted as saying by the semi-official Anatolia news agency.
State radio said villagers reportedly heard people crying for help as they lay underneath a mass of earth and stones.