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11:24 Oct 13 2009

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Stranded Tibetans saved from heavy snowstorm
11:22, October 13, 2009  

More than 200 people and 1,000 yaks and sheep, trapped for a week under heavy snow in a village of Tibet Autonomous Region, were finally rescued on Monday.

For four days between Oct. 5 and Oct. 8, a heavy storm buried southern Tibet in as much as 1 m of snow. The snowfall in Burang County in Ngari Prefecture was on average about 40-60 cm deep.

In Gongze Village of Burang County, a rural road was blocked and more than 200 local herdsmen with hundreds of their livestock were stranded.

The armed police dispatched a 60-member rescue team and more than 10 machines on Sunday noon to help clear up the road.

After 12 hours of arduous work, the team managed to clear up to 60 km of countryside roads by midnight, and rescued 53 households of more than 200 Tibetans by 5 am yesterday.

Conditions were frigid for the herdsmen living in their tents, Liu Binyu, a publicity officer with the armed police stationed in Ngari prefecture, told China Daily.

"They usually burn cow dung to warm up their tents, but with the snow-cover, they couldn't find any," he said.

The herdsmen's yaks and sheep, with no grass to forage, suffered from starvation. Some went astray and were lost, Liu said.

With snow inundating outbound roads, the herdsmen were unable to move around in their tractors and other vehicles.

"The snow pileup on the roads only became worse in the few days after the snowstorm ended on Oct. 8, because the winds have blown more snow from elsewhere to accumulate on the road," he said.

"Though it is called a village, it actually covers a vast area here in Tibet. Local herdsmen live far from each other. It has increased the difficulty of rescue," he said.

Besides Gongze Village, other parts of Burang County also suffered losses from the snowstorm.

Yang Lin, secretary of the CPC committee of Burang County, said preliminary statistics showed that 25 houses were severely damaged by the snow; other houses became too dangerous for people to live in.

Hundreds of livestock were killed or lost due to the drastic temperature drop, he said.

Local governments are now helping herdsmen drive a few thousand yaks and sheep to places with feeders.

Disaster relief materials are also being distributed to locals, including warm clothes, shoes and sunglasses. The sunglasses will prevent the herdsmen' eyes from being hurt by the light reflected by snow, he said.

Source: China Daily

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