Helicopters rescue 10 following avalanche on Xinjiang mountain

A helicopter lowers a basket to rescue trapped mountaineers in Changji, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Tuesday. CHINA DAILY

Ten hikers were rescued in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Tuesday morning after avalanches hit a mountainous area, according to a local fire brigade.

One hiker was severely injured and another was said to be in weak condition. Both are receiving medical treatment in a Urumqi hospital. Both are listed as stable, the Urumqi fire brigade said on Tuesday.

According to the Xinjiang forest fire brigade, the group aimed to climb mountains during the Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday. They encountered avalanches and became trapped by a slide in a mountainous area of Changji, a city near Urumqi, on Saturday.

The brigade received an emergency call from the travelers on Monday morning and sent a rescue team. However, poor traffic conditions-the result of avalanches-made the rescue mission difficult.

The brigade later asked help from a local Army unit, which sent two helicopters. The helicopters reached the site on Monday afternoon and found footprints left by the hikers at an altitude of about 4,000 meters.

"But poor weather conditions challenged the rescue efforts. The clouds hindered our vision, and we encountered strong turbulence," said Li Xiang, head of the rescue team and captain of one helicopter.

He said the combination of weather and dwindling fuel forced the helicopters to return.

On Tuesday morning, the helicopters returned. After 10 minutes of searching they found the 10 hikers on a mountain slope at an altitude of about 3,500 meters. All were picked up.

"Hovering in the air meant we needed to control the helicopter above but very close to the mountaintop without moving forward or backward. At such a high altitude, that challenges a pilot's skills," Li said.

Most places in Xinjiang are getting warmer, and snow conditions in mountainous regions can result in avalanches or floods. Local tourism and weather departments have issued safety alerts to travelers.