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Heavy snow blocks roads, strands visitors in Xinjiang

2024-01-15 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Avalanches across roads have extended the suspension of Kanas scenic area in Altay prefecture of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region until Jan 20.

New avalanches continue to occur in some areas, the Kanas management committee said on Monday.

A prolonged snowstorm brought multiple avalanches along a provincial highway in Burqin county, blocking access to the renowned scenic area. Numerous travelers were stranded, prompting local authorities to implement measures to accommodate those affected.

As of midnight on Sunday, local authorities had cleared 295 kilometers of the approximately 350 kilometers of road sections affected, according to Zhang Ning, head of Altay prefecture's transportation bureau.

The management committee of the Kanas scenic area issued a statement on Saturday, saying it will provide free accommodations and meals while the roads are closed. Hotels in villages in Hanas, Hemu, and Baihaba are offering complimentary rooms, and free dining services are available at designated locations.

According to Xinhua News Agency, as of 1 pm on Sunday, the local government had safely evacuated 287 people from the villages of Baihaba and Hanas to nearby Habahe county. Power and communication in Hemu village are functioning normally, and residents, along with more than 1,200 stranded tourists, have ample supplies.

A skier in Hemu village told Chao News that on Sunday, a helicopter delivered supplies and evacuated tourists with injuries or emergency needs from the mountain.

According to the meteorological bureau of Xinjiang, the region experienced its longest continuous snowfall of the young year. It primarily affected Altay and Tacheng prefectures. In Altay, at least 31 avalanches had been reported as of Saturday, with some snow accumulation reaching over 5 meters in some places.

Zhang Bing, deputy director of the scenic area's management committee, explained that the mountainous region typically experiences heavy snowfall in winter, leading to road blockages caused by avalanches virtually every year.

During this recent storm, local authorities organized snow-clearing operations and created a single lane for traffic on Jan 10. Vehicles were escorted by traffic police. However, subsequent avalanches once again obstructed the road, he said.

According to the meteorological department of Altay, most areas of the prefecture will get more snow on Monday, with significant snow anticipated in the Kanas and Hemu scenic areas. This will present new obstacles for road clearing efforts, it said.


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