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Avalanche kills 4 skiers in Kyrgyzstan visiting from Czech Republic and Slovakia

The danger of avalanches
The danger of avalanches 06:48

Four tourists were killed in an avalanche that hit a group of skiers in Kyrgyzstan, the Czech and Slovak foreign ministries told Agence France-Presse on Monday. Kyrgyz state media said the accident occurred in the country's northeast, close to the border with Kazakhstan and China, where a French tourist died at the beginning of February in similar circumstances.

"Twenty-three tourists from the Czech Republic and Slovakia were skiing when an avalanche was triggered," the Kabar state news agency reported, citing rescue services.

Czech foreign ministry spokeswoman Mariana Wernerova told AFP that three of the dead skiers were Czech nationals.

"We can confirm that three Czech citizens have died in an avalanche on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan," she said.

Czech diplomats in the Kazakh capital Astana "are in touch with local authorities and the travel agency," Wernerova added.

Slovak foreign ministry spokeswoman Beatrice Szaboova said the fourth victim was Slovak.

"Our embassy in Astana is following the case and... providing consular assistance," she told AFP.

Avalanches have hit the region before. In 2022, a hiker filmed the terrifying moment he and nine others were caught in an avalanche in Kyrgyzstan.  "If we had walked 5 minutes further on our trek, we would all be dead," the hiker wrote on Instagram.  

A former Soviet country, Kyrgyzstan has for years been trying to invest in its still underdeveloped tourism sector, particularly in winter sports.

Winter scenery is seen at Kyrgyzstan's Ala-Archa National Park, Feb. 23, 2024.
Winter scenery is seen at Kyrgyzstan's Ala-Archa National Park, Feb. 23, 2024. Roman/Xinhua via Getty Images

It recently eased visa restrictions in a bid to attract more foreign tourists, many of whom come for its vast and towering mountain ranges that reach some 23,000 feet in altitude.

The U.S. State Department advises Americans traveling to Kyrgyzstan to exercise normal precautions while in most parts of the country. Officials urge people to reconsider going to the border region with Tajikistan in the country's southwest because of intermittent border clashes in the Batken region.

"Travelers are at heightened risk of injury or death when visiting or transiting that region," the State Department says in its latest travel advisory from June 2023. "Armed violence may occur with little or no warning."

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