Hope fades for workers buried in NW China avalanche

Updated: 2008-03-14 17:00

URUMQI - Rescuers say eight workers buried in an avalanche at a tunnel construction site in Northwest China have little chance of survival.

The avalanche occurred at around 10 am when about five workers were in the tunnel and a team of 13 people were on their way to the site in the Kazak Autonomous Prefecture of Ili, northern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said Zhang Yun, the prefecture's deputy Party chief.

"The snow suddenly slid down from the mountain. The 12 workers before me were all buried in snow. I was the last one and the snow buried me to the chest," said Du Xueji, a worker with the main contractor, Xinjiang Zhanyou Tianyuan Machinery and Engineering Company.

The bodies of four workers had been recovered on Thursday, but low temperatures and thick snow were hampering the rescue operation.

More than one million cubic meters of snow slid about 1,000 meters down the mountain and piled 50 meters high, blocking the tunnel entrance, Zhang said.

"It's almost impossible those buried will have survived, but it's still possible the workers in the tunnel could be alive," Zhang said.

A truck, carrying stone from the site was found on Friday at about 700 meters from the tunnel. The driver had suffocated, rescuers said.

Rescuers were drilling ventilation holes through the snow to the tunnel.

The tunnel is at a remote area known as "Guozigou" by local people. It is about 500 kilometers from Urumqi, the regional capital.

About 70 workers were at the site when the accident happened. About 40 workers have moved from the camp, about a kilometer from the tunnel entrance.

The constructing company is building a 3.8-kilometer tunnel, part of a cross-border pipeline project to send gas from Turkmenistan to Shanghai. Workers had finished 260 meters when the accident happened.

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