Death toll in Tibet tunnel avalanche rises to 28 – Al Jazeera English

Death toll in Tibet tunnel avalanche rises to 28 – Al Jazeera English

Vehicles were crushed under tons of snow and ice collapsing in a highway tunnel.

Rescuers in Tibet have discovered eight more bodies, bringing the death toll to 28, after an avalanche buried several vehicles in deep snow and ice on a stretch of road connected to a highway tunnel.

Chinese state media reported late Friday that rescue workers uncovered the eight bodies by digging by hand and with mechanical excavators to locate the vehicles buried in the avalanche, which took place around 8 p.m. (12:00 GMT) on Tuesday. It had struck a road and highway tunnel linking the southwest Tibet city of Nyingchi with remote Medog County.

According to the state-run Global Times news agency, 20 people had been killed earlier Friday and eight were still missing. China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that 53 people were rescued after the avalanche, with five of the survivors seriously injured.

Authorities said the search and rescue operation was largely complete, the news agency reported.

The avalanche hit a section of road between Pai Village in Mainling County and Doxong La Tunnel in Medog County.

A villager told the Global Times that most of those who were out at the time of the accident were Tibetans returning to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year, which begins Sunday.

Rescuers reported vehicles were being crushed under the weight of tons of snow and ice that collapsed at the mouth of the tunnel, trapping drivers in their vehicles.

Nyingchi sits at an elevation of about 3,040 meters (9,974 feet) and is about a five-hour drive from the region’s capital, Lhasa, along a highway that opened in 2018. Winter nighttime temperatures routinely drop well below freezing.

Chinese authorities say about 1,000 rescue workers and dozens of emergency vehicles were deployed to the scene of the disaster.

“The snow was so deep it was waist-deep and the road is very slippery. Many rescuers stumbled all the way there,” a worker at the local health center said, according to the Global Times.

Avalanches are not uncommon in the Himalayas. Last October, at least 26 people died when a mountaineering expedition was caught in an avalanche on Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II in northern Uttarakhand state.