Thousands trapped in China’s Xinjiang avalanches

It has been ten days, and heavy snowfall in China's northwestern Xinjiang region appears to be escalating. Approximately 1,000 tourists find themselves stranded in the area as adverse weather conditions impede evacuation efforts.

Capture 19
In this image taken from video footage run by China's CCTV, excavators clear a road blocked by snow in Altay Prefecture in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.(AP)

Chinese media on Tuesday reported the worsening state of avalanches in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region as rescue efforts and evacuation have proven difficult due to uncertain weather and metres of snow.

The situation has left approximately 1,000 tourists in the holiday village stranded. No vehicle or human being can easily move due to roadblocks in Hemu village, a picturesque destination that shares borders with Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia. State TV, CCTV reports that other tourists were airlifted to safety on military helicopters over the weekend.

According to CCTV, avalanches created by the snow measure as high as 7 metres. Additionally, rescue efforts by evacuators are impeded by rocks, debris and tree branches wrapped in the snow.

As of Tuesday morning, a helicopter which was expected to transport food and other supplies to the victims had been delayed, reports CCTV.

Hemu Village which is situated in Xinjiang’s Altay Prefecture was hit by heavy snow in the early days of January. According to the Xinjiang meteorological bureau, about 31 avalanches have been experienced in the area between January 1 and January 16.

The overwhelming magnitude of the damage caused and the general sentiments of the victims are represented by Zhao Jinsheng, head of the highway management bureau in Altay who told CCTV that the frequency of the avalanches was the highest the bureau had seen in the area.

“This avalanche situation is relatively special, we have seen such heavy snowfall before, but we have not seen such a high frequency of avalanches,” Zhao said.

He added that 53 personnel and 31 sets of machinery and equipment had been dispatched to the village to assist with the rescue and relief work.

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