Vehicles were crushed under tons of snow and ice which collapsed on a road tunnel.
Rescuers in Tibet have discovered eight more bodies, bringing the death toll to 28 following an avalanche that buried several vehicles in deep snow and ice on a stretch of road connected to a road tunnel.
Chinese state media reported on Friday evening that rescuers had discovered the eight bodies, digging by hand and with power shovels to locate buried vehicles in the avalanche, which took place around 8:00 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Tuesday. It had hit a road and highway tunnel linking the town of Nyingchi in southwestern Tibet with the outlying county of Medog.
Earlier Friday, 20 people had been killed and eight were still missing, according to the Global Times news outlet. China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that 53 people had been rescued after the avalanche, five of whom were seriously injured.
28 people were confirmed dead as of 5:30 p.m. on Friday after a massive avalanche hit Nyingchi in southwest China’s Xizang on Tuesday. Search and rescue operation nearly over: local authorities https://t.co/OSW2L3tTpB https://t.co/A2xOXu5FXx
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 20, 2023
Authorities said the search and rescue operation was largely over, the outlet reported.
The avalanche hit a stretch of road between Pai village in Mainling county and Doxong La tunnel in Medog county.
A local villager told the Global Times that most of those traveling on the road at the time of the accident were Tibetans returning to their hometown for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Sunday.
Rescue workers reported that vehicles were crushed under the weight of tons of snow and ice which collapsed at the mouth of the tunnel, trapping drivers in their vehicles.
Nyingchi sits at an elevation of around 3,040 meters (9,974 ft) and is about a five-hour drive from the regional capital, Lhasa, along a highway opened in 2018. Winter nighttime temperatures drop steadily well below zero.
According to Chinese authorities, some 1,000 rescue workers and dozens of emergency vehicles have been deployed to the disaster site.
“The snow was so deep it reached people’s waists and the road is very slippery. Many rescue workers stumbled there,” a local health center worker 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 the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.