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173 stranded canoeists rescued in gorge

FIREFIGHTERS have rescued 173 tourists stranded in a valley in a mountain tourist park in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality after they set off in canoes after being told they couldn't on Saturday.

Firefighters rushed to the Ayi River scenic area in Chongqing's Pengshui County after receiving calls from one of the tourists around 8:50pm, today's Chongqing Times reported.

Canoe trips are run through a 13-kilometer section of a deep gorge of the Aiyi River.

The trip takes about six hours, a park worker surnamed Liu told the newspaper, so they stop people venturing out at 3pm each day.

On Saturday, a group who wanted to canoe down the river arrived at about 4pm but were refused, Liu said.

While the 10 park workers were explaining the rules to the tourists, some of the tourists jumped into the inflatable canoes and set off, he said.

But with night falling along the fast-flowing river, some of the tourists started to get scared and one called for help on his mobile phone.

Firefighters arrived at the end of the canoeing section about 9:10pm and headed upriver with park staff.

"There were stranded tourists all along the river screaming for help," an unnamed firefighter told the Chongqing Times.

Around 10:30pm, firefighters helped tourists in the last canoe reach the end.

All the 173 rescued tourists were safe.

According to the park, 1,206 tourists entered the valley on Saturday. Some 813 people took canoe trips, 351 took sightseeing trips, six hiked along the river and 36 joined rafting trips.

There are 20 emergency platforms along the river for tourists in case of emergencies, park staff said.

On July 19 last year, mudslides stopped more than 1,000 canoeists in the valley. More than 500 managed to walk out of the valley while the rest were helped out by rescuers.


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