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January 22, 2010

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Military rescues 14 trapped in northern Xinjiang blizzard

FOURTEEN people trapped in a blizzard in western China have been rescued in an emergency military airlift, but seven remain missing, a military officer said yesterday.

Peng Xinguo, chief of staff of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region military area sub-command, said the 14 were rushed to the People's Hospital in Altay Region, in northern Xinjiang, for treatment.

They had exhausted their food and heating materials when the rescuers arrived, Peng said.

They were illegal gold prospectors, said Peng.

The People's Liberation Army dispatched two helicopters yesterday at the request of the autonomous regional government.

A group of 23 people were overtaken by a snowstorm on January 13 when they were trying to retreat from Halahate, a remote mountainous area in Altay Region, the emergency response office of Xinjiang said in a press release.

Only two managed to reach the destination of Zuhalagai, also in Altay, with serious frostbite.

They reported to the government in Altay that seven members of their party were missing and 14 others were trapped on the way. The date of the report was not stated.

Up to 2 meters of snow has fallen in Halahate and Zuhalagai, about 120 kilometers from downtown Altay, cutting ground access to the areas.

It was reported that a woman was among the missing and the trapped were in great need of food and daily supplies.

Blizzards and extreme cold since late December have disrupted transport, seriously threatened livestock and affected daily life in Xinjiang.

The latest cold snap in northern Xinjiang that sent the temperature to minus 45.7 degrees Celsius in Fuyun County has left at least four people dead and more than 600 injured in the whole region, incurring huge economic losses.

Xinjiang governments at all levels are trying to transport feed to Altay and Tacheng, where livestock have eaten half of the fodder in stock.


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