Nearly One-Thousand Trapped by Avalanche in China

( – Many people enjoy the winter months for the snow and the scenery it provides, but it also comes with its hazards. Black ice, blizzards that trap people in their homes, and avalanches are all possible, depending on where you live. In China, recent snowfall triggered at least 31 avalanches in the Altay mountains, and more than 1,000 people in a remote skiing area were trapped as a result.

On Tuesday, January 16, there was a rescue operation underway to evacuate tourists who had been trapped for more than a week. The avalanches blocked roads, making it impossible for people to access the area in the Xinjiang region during that time. Rescuers were flying the injured out using military helicopters, which were also used to fly in necessary supplies such as fuel and food. The roads were cleared that day so people who had driven in could leave. The area has recently become a bit of a tourist draw for its skiing capability and some permanent residents live in the prefecture as well.

According to The Associated Press, China’s state media reported that more than 220 miles of road were shut down because of the avalanches. Making matters worse, cleanup was hindered due to debris — namely rocks and branches — mixed in with the snow.

Despite the road clearing and the rescues, extreme weather still poses a hazard so officials have shut the region down to newcomers until at least January 20. The weather has also made it difficult to deliver goods regularly to the area and some shipments scheduled to arrive by helicopter have been delayed.

Zhao Jinsheng, who serves as head of the highway management bureau, said this particular circumstance “is relatively special,” and that the clearing work to clear roads into Hemu village would continue to take some time because of the ongoing weather hazards.

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