Evacuation underway for stranded tourists after multiple avalanches trap 1,000 people in China


BEIJING (AP) — Rescuers evacuated tourists on Tuesday from a remote skiing area in northwestern China where dozens of avalanches triggered by heavy snow have trapped more than 1,000 people for a week, state media said.

The avalanches have blocked roads, stranding both tourists and residents in a village in Altay prefecture in the Xinjiang region, close to China’s border with Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Those injured were being airlifted out on a military helicopter while supplies such as food and fuel were being flown in.

State broadcaster CCTV said a snow-blocked road linking Hemu village to major roads was cleared on Tuesday, enabling vehicles to enter and tourists to drive themselves out.

Footage showed dozens of tourists dragging luggage over snow-covered areas toward a military helicopter, while a long line of outgoing cars was seen on the cleared road.

State media cited the local highway administration as saying the avalanches affected 350 kilometers (220 miles) of roads. Road clearing efforts were hampered due to the area’s geography as roads leading to Hemu are situated in a valley with tree-covered slopes.

Known as an emerging ski destination, Altay prefecture had been hit by heavy snowfall since early January. China Daily, citing the Xinjiang meteorological bureau, said at least 31 avalanches were reported as of Saturday.

Authorities at the Kanas scenic area, where Hemu village is located, said the area will be closed until at least Jan. 20 due to continued extreme weather.

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