September 10th, 2007 08:16 EST
Missing Russian tourists in Northwest China
Around 1,100 people have been called up to join the search for six Russian tourists who were reported missing late last month in a canoeing trip on a river in Northwest China`s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, but no clues have been found, local authorities said Sunday.
By Sunday evening, the searchers, including armed police, local farmers and herdsman, have combed a total of 406 kilometers of the middle and lower reaches of the Yurungkax River in southern Xinjiang, an official with Hotan Prefecture told Xinhua late Sunday night.
More than 300 people from Yutian County, in the upper reaches of the river, have also searched 80 kilometers of the river, the official said.
The six Russians flew to Urumqi, regional capital of Xinjiang, on August 11 and then flew to Hotan and later arrived by bus at Pulu Village, Yutian County, where the Yurungkax River originates, according to Zhang Hong, a local Russian-language interpreter for the missing Russians.
According to the original plan, the expedition team would arrive at the banks of the Yurungkax River that flows through Hotan on August 20, start canoeing the next day towards Cele and finish at Kashitashi Township in Hotan County, 30 km from Hotan City, in order to meet Zhang.
However, the six Russians failed to show up on September 2 as agreed.
A special eight-member searching team has also left Pulu Village for the starting site of the canoeing and will arrive there two days later, the Hotan official said.
But as the source of the river is 5,000 to 6,000 meters above sea level with rugged and mountainous roads, the searching would be "extremely difficult", the official said.
Meanwhile, the helicopters which were scheduled to arrive in Hotan on Sunday to join the search were delayed due to weather conditions and would arrive Monday.