DUSHANBE (Reuters) - An avalanche killed at least 16 people in the mountains of Tajikistan on Saturday while more people remained trapped under snow, an Interior Ministry official said.
The avalanche occurred after several days of heavy snowfall and hit a road that connects the Central Asian state’s capital Dushanbe with another city, Khudjand.
Pictures shown on Russia’s Vesti-24 news channel showed heavy tractors clearing snow from a narrow mountain road and trucks trapped at the site, 70 km (45 miles) north of Dushanbe.
Mountains occupy 93 percent of Tajikistan’s territory.
“Our report from the site says 16 bodies have been dug out,” colonel Khaidar Makhmadiyev from the Interior Ministry said.
The Emergency Ministry said three people were killed and many more were still trapped under snow.
“There are still people under snow, we cannot say how many at the moment. The rescue operation continues,” said Emergency Ministry official Makhmadullo Khalimov.
Makhmadiyev from the Interior Ministry said all victims were either drivers or passengers of cars.
The vital link used to close for winter, but this year it stayed open thanks to the newly built $31 million Anzob tunnel that goes under a snow-covered pass.
Writing by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia