Death toll rises to 20 in tragic avalanche in SW China's Xizang
Published: Jan 19, 2023 11:33 PM Updated: Jan 20, 2023 04:26 PM
The screenshot of a video on January 18, 2023 shows rescuers at the scene of the avalanche in Nyingchi of Southwest China's Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region. Photo: VCG

The screenshot of a video on January 18, 2023 shows rescuers at the scene of the avalanche in Nyingchi of Southwest China's Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region. Photo: VCG

A total of 20 people have been confirmed dead and eight remain missing as of Friday noon after a deadly avalanche took place on Tuesday in the city of Nyingchi in Southwest China’s Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region.

Search and rescue efforts have been stepped up as more emergency personnel and volunteers arrived at the scene and tried their best to find more survivors. A rescue channel was successfully excavated in the avalanche area on Thursday evening, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

The avalanche happened on a section of road between Pai village in Mainling county and the exit of the Doxong La tunnel in Medog county at around 7 pm on Tuesday, leaving people and vehicles stranded, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The region's emergency rescue headquarters has set up two special teams to provide meteorological services and communication support, and added 100 professional personnel to carry out all-out efforts to search for survivors and the remains of victims, CCTV reported on Friday.   

Additionally, 53 guard posts have been set up, each equipped with telescopes, flashlights, walkie-talkies and other emergency equipment, to ensure the safety of search and rescue teams as secondary avalanches may possibly occur, according to CCTV.

The local government has deployed 229 vehicles, 2,951 items of rescue equipment and 256 professional rescue personnel. More than 550 relief items, including tents, stretchers, quilts and cotton-padded clothes, have been sent to support the rescue teams, CCTV said. 

In terms of medical treatment, the local government has ordered medical institutions in Nyingchi to put emergency treatment and surgical experts on standby, prepare more than 40 beds and 10 doctors, and deploy 15 ambulances to the disaster site. A total of 41 medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, have been dispatched with the ambulances, which are equipped with first-aid equipment and medicine.

Nyingchi will continue to deploy drones and professional rescue personnel to search for signs of life and locate buried vehicles and people. Public security forces will continue to verify the information of the missing people, continuously call the buried people's mobile phones and try their best to get in touch with them.

A staffer at the emergency management bureau of Nyingchi said on Thursday morning that rescue forces have increased to about 1,000 rescuers and 30 large rescue machineries.

Rescue workers told reporters in the early morning of Thursday that they saw vehicles crushed at the avalanche site, and according to a resident from Pai village, the incident occurred some 10 kilometers from the village, "which is one of the only two roads leading to Medog county. Most of those on the road are people returning to their hometowns or people doing business, mostly local Tibetans," the villager said.

"The snow was so deep it was as high as to people's waist, and the road is very slippery. Many rescue workers stumbled all the way there," a township health center employee told media on Thursday.

Some searched for 12 vehicles to find a survivor, China News reported. "His car overturned and his ribs were injured. He was still conscious when we dug him out, and he should be among those lucky ones," said the heath center staff member.

China's Ministry of Emergency Management has sent a working group to Xizang on Wednesday evening.

Due to the significant precipitation in the high-altitude mountainous areas of Nyingchi which triggered multiple avalanches along highways, Nyingchi on Wednesday initiated a level-III natural disaster emergency response, read a notice released by the municipal government.

Global Times