Avalanches again block roads near tourism spot in China’s Xinjiang region

Avalanches have again blocked roads leading to a remote tourism spot in China’s far west Xinjiang region, with the area on alert for more snowstorms this week.

One-way traffic has been restored on some roads but others remain closed after heavy snow that began on Sunday triggered avalanches near the Kanas scenic area in the Altay mountains, traffic police said on Monday evening.

There were 13 avalanches on highways in the area on Sunday and Monday, according to its management committee. The scenic area is in the northern prefecture of Altay, which borders Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia.

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More heavy snowfall is expected in the next few days. Photo: Handout

The committee said the deepest avalanche was 5 metres, while the widest spanned 1km. There had been no reports of injuries or vehicle damage.

It said updates on the weather and road conditions would be posted to the social media accounts of the committee and traffic police.

“Snow is still falling in the Kanas scenic area and the risk of avalanches along the roads is extremely high,” the committee’s statement said. “Traffic police will continue to implement traffic control on all road sections in the area.”

It warned that the extreme weather would persist in the scenic area until early next week, with another 35cm to 45cm of snow expected to fall between Wednesday and Friday, followed by strong winds.

Temperatures are expected to drop to around minus 40 degrees Celsius from Thursday to Sunday.

The National Meteorological Centre urged authorities in northern Xinjiang to put safety measures in place.

“Due to recent frequent snowfall and deep accumulation of snow, it is recommended that traffic safety management be strengthened and to guard against natural disasters such as falling ice and melting snow in mountainous areas, and avalanches,” the meteorological centre said.

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Last month, residents and more than 1,000 tourists were stranded in a village for 10 days after a road leading to the Kanas scenic area was hit by avalanches following days of heavy snowfall.

One tour guide in the area said it was not clear how serious the avalanches were this time.

“Vehicles in the Kanas scenic area are queuing to go down the mountain and traffic police officers are distributing free food, but [they] are not allowed to go up the mountain yet,” the guide, surnamed Zhang, told Jiemian News.

China is celebrating the Lunar New Year with a one-week holiday that began on Saturday. Many people travel during the festive period, and Xinjiang’s Altay region is among the popular destinations for winter tourism.

State broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday highlighted tourism activities – including bumper cars and ice bowling – at the country’s largest inland freshwater lake, Bosten, near Bazhou in Xinjiang. Visitors can also take in cultural performances and view ice and snow sculptures with a dragon theme to mark this year’s Chinese zodiac sign.

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