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Russia joins hunt for missing rafters in China

Russian rescuers have arrived in China to help find six Russian rafters missing in the northwest of the country. The group disappeared two weeks ago at the start of a rafting trip down the Yurungkash river.

The Russian team will join around 1,500 people already taking part in the search.

Rescuers are scouring the entire length of the 700 km river, regarded as one of the most difficult and dangerous places on Earth for rafting.  No-one has yet managed to navigate the entire Yurangash. The river flows at an astonishing 100 km an hour in some places.

“The people we are searching for are winners of many Russian championships. Their leader is also an experienced sportsman. This rafting expedition can be compared to the recent climb of the K2 mountain. They are experienced and were well-equipped,” said Andrey Legoshin from the Rescue operation department.  

The rafting expedition was due to end ten days ago, but the team didn’t show up at their final destination.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry rescue team is based at the town of Hotan, close to the Russia China border.  

Nothing has been heard from the rafters since radio contact was lost with them at the beginning of their expedition.  However, they are thought to have enough food and water to last them for 20 days.

Mr Legoshin says, “We still don’t know why they don’t have the necessary means of communication”.  

“We hope it is some technical accident. They are in need of help, and we are currently discussing a joint Russian-Chinese rescue plan, which we’ll put into action soon,” he adds.  

Rescuers fear the expedition could have been caught in a landslide, or may have fallen victim to the criminal gangs who operate in the region.

So far, 500 km of the river have been searched. The remaining 200 km are the roughest, and can only be searched by air.