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China: 1,000 tourists stranded in Xinjiang after dozens of avalanches block highways

Multiple rounds of snowfall swept the Kanas scenic area since January 6, resulting in several avalanches that blocked roads connecting the scenic area with external regions. This heavy snowfall has triggered dozens of avalanches along large sections of highway in the Altay mountains.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Beijing Published on: January 16, 2024 14:42 IST
China, tourists stranded, avalanches
Image Source : REUTERS Stranded tourists being airlifted by authorities in Xinjiang.

Roughly 1,000 tourists remain stranded at a remote vacation village in China after dozens of avalanches struck the country's northwestern Xinjiang region with metres-high snow and poor weather hindering evacuation efforts. Road access to Hemu village, located near the borders of Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia has been cut off by avalanches for several days now, according to state TV.

The village is located in Xinjiang's Altay Prefecture where continuous snowfall in some areas has lasted 10 days, as per state-run media. This heavy snowfall has triggered dozens of avalanches along large sections of highway in the Altay mountains leading to the Kanas scenic area, and some tourists were lifted by helicopter to safety, according to Chinese media.

Multiple rounds of snowfall swept the Kanas scenic area since January 6, resulting in several avalanches that blocked roads connecting the scenic area with external regions. The snow-blocked section of a road linking Hemu village in the Kanas scenic area in Xinjiang was cleared on Tuesday afternoon, Xinhua reported

The snow brought by the avalanches reached as high as seven metres in some parts. It was even higher than snow clearing equipment as work was underway to clear the 50-km stretch of buried road started a week ago. The avalanches also uprooted pine and birch forest slopes, resulting in debris, rocks and tree branches complicating the evacuation efforts.

As weather changes rapidly in the mountainous area, the windows for operating supply missions have been narrow too. A military helicopter scheduled to send supplies - such as flour and fuel - to Hemu village was delayed on Tuesday morning, as per state-controlled media.

The highway management authorities in Altay said they have organised 53 personnel and 31 sets of machinery and equipment for the rescue and relief work. "This avalanche situation is relatively special, we have seen such heavy snowfall before, but we have not seen such high frequency of avalanches," the head of the highway management bureau, Zhao Jinsheng, told CCTV.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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