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Heavy snowstorm kills 7 road workers in Altay

By CUI JIA | China Daily | Updated: 2022-11-30 09:12
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Seven people were found dead after going missing in a heavy snowstorm in Altay in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the local government said on Monday night.

On Saturday, the region's meteorological bureau issued its highest-level warning for extreme cold. It warned that heavy snowstorms would continue to lash northern Xinjiang, including Altay prefecture, and that there could be drops in temperature of as much as 30 C, to well below freezing in some areas.

At around 11 pm on Saturday, the city's emergency response center received a call saying that eight road construction workers had gone missing in extreme weather conditions, the Altay government said in a statement.

The workers were on their way to their homes after their construction work had been put on hold. The management team decided to take them to a town about 4 kilometers from the construction site, it said.

The vehicle carrying eight people left the site around 7:10 pm. Due to the extreme weather conditions, the vehicle became stranded only 500 meters from the site. Failing to get the vehicle moving again, the workers decided to walk back to the site after consulting with the management team, it added.

According to the statement, the weather conditions in the area took a turn for the worse at around 8:30 pm with stronger wind and heavier snow, and the workers lost their way. They were found around 11:10 am on Sunday and taken to a local hospital. Unfortunately, only one of them survived.

It was the first time that Xinjiang had issued its highest warning for cold temperature since 2008.

The extreme weather conditions have also severely affected herdsmen in northern Xinjiang who still follow the tradition of moving livestock around seasonal pastures.

The cold snap has coincided with them moving their livestock from spring and autumn pastures to winter pastures. In northern Xinjiang, many rescue missions have been carried out to save herdsmen and livestock stranded in blizzards during the migration.

Aoqierbatar, head of the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Bureau of Bortala Mongolian prefecture, said winter migration normally lasts 10 days. For the herdsmen, it's one of the most important and challenging tasks of the year.

"The cold snap has made the task extremely difficult. The livestock are likely to lose more weight, get sick and lose the babies they carry causing great losses for herdsmen. So we have arranged trucks to help herdsmen transport livestock directly to winter pastures, which is faster and safer in extreme weather conditions," Aoqierbatar said.

This year, more than 2,010 herdsmen with 242,700 livestock from the neighboring Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture will arrive at the winter pasture in Bortala. Aoqierbatar said support from the departments of traffic control, health and emergency response is in place along the migration routes.

In Altay, where the lowest temperature in some areas has dropped to — 48.6 C, more than 614,500 livestock had arrived at their winter pastures by Monday. The migration of the other 240,000 livestock will be completed before Dec 20, the local government said.

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