At Least 16 Dead in Tajik Avalanche

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- An avalanche killed at least 16 people in the mountains of Tajikistan over the weekend.

The avalanche struck around midnight Friday about 67 kilometers north of Dushanbe, covering the road connecting the capital with Khudjand, the principal northern city. "Our report from the site says 16 bodies have been dug out," said Colonel Khaidar Makhmadiyev of the Interior Ministry.

Makhmadiyev said all victims were either drivers or passengers of cars.

The Vesti-24 news channel on Saturday showed footage of heavy tractors clearing snow from a narrow mountain road and trucks trapped at the site. Mountains cover 93 percent of Tajikistan's territory. The highway is a vital link that 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.