Ural Ayar, one of the survivors, told NTV television by telephone on Sunday: "We were walking and before we realised what was going on, the avalanche came on us.

"The snow dragged our friends along and unfortunately they were buried."

Rescuers were still searching for people feared trapped under the snow, after the avalanche near the province of Gumushane, close to the Black Sea.

Enver Salihoglu, the governor of Gumushane, said earlier that about 50 rescuers were combing the area in search of more climbers.

Officials said the avalanche may have been caused by unusually warm temperatures loosening the snow on the ground.