Vehicles were crushed under tons of snow and ice that collapsed on a highway tunnel.
Rescue workers in Tibet have discovered eight more bodies, raising the death toll to 28 after an avalanche that buried several vehicles in deep snow and ice on a section of road connected to a highway tunnel.
Chinese state media reported late on Friday that rescuers had uncovered the eight bodies, by hand and with mechanical diggers to locate the vehicles buried in the avalanche, which took place at about 8pm (12pm GMT) on Tuesday. It had hit a road and highway tunnel connecting the town of Nyingchi in southwestern Tibet to the remote Medog district.
Earlier on Friday, state-run news outlet Global Times said 20 people had died and eight were still missing. China’s state news agency Xinhua News Agency reported that 53 people were rescued after the avalanche, with five of the survivors seriously injured.
As of 5:30 pm on Friday, 28 people have been declared dead after a massive avalanche occurred in Nyingchi in Xizang, southwest China, on Tuesday. The search and rescue operation is basically complete: local authorities https://t.co/OSW2L3tTpB https://t.co/A2xOXu5FXx
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 20, 2023
Authorities said the search and rescue operation is largely complete, the news outlet reported.
The avalanche hit a section of road between the village of Pai in Mainling province and the Doxong La tunnel in Medog province.
A local villager told the Global Times that most of those on the road at the time of the accident were Tibetans returning to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Sunday.
Rescuers reported vehicles crushed under the weight of tons of snow and ice that collapsed near the mouth of the tunnel, trapping drivers in their vehicles.
Nyingchi is located at an elevation of about 3,040 meters (9,974 feet) and is about a five-hour drive from the regional capital, Lhasa, along a highway that opened in 2018. Nighttime temperatures in winter routinely drop well below freezing.
Chinese authorities say some 1,000 rescue workers and dozens of emergency vehicles have been deployed to the scene of the disaster.
“The snow was so deep that it reached people up to their waists, and the road is very slippery. Many rescuers have completely tripped over there,” said an employee at the local health center, according to the Global Times.
Avalanches are not uncommon in the Himalayas. Last October, at least 26 people were killed when a mountaineering expedition was caught in an avalanche on Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand.