Source AP ©

Six Russian tourists disappear during river canoe trip in China

Chinese police officers, farmers and herders were searching Monday for six Russian tourists who disappeared during a river canoe trip in the remote far west of China, state media said.

Plans to send helicopters to scour the area in the southern part of the Xinjiang region were delayed by poor weather, Xinhua said. The helicopters were expected to arrive Monday, it said.

Rescue work was also hampered by the remoteness of the area - the Russian men had traveled high in the Kunlun mountain range at an elevation of up to 6,000 meters (19,700 feet), Xinhua said.

The tourists planned to paddle down the Yurungkax River in three canoes for 12 days but failed to meet up with their local Russian interpreter, Zhang Hong, as scheduled on Sept. 2.

Xinhua said 1,100 police, local farmers and herdsmen had combed about 406 kilometers (250 miles) of the middle and lower reaches of the Yurungkax River by late Sunday but found no sign of the group.

The group hired two Chinese guides from Pulu Village in Xinjiang's Yutian county on Aug. 14 to help them trek to the river, which they reached on Aug. 19, Xinhua said.

The guides, identified in the report only as Itaman and Ahman, told rescuers they left the Russians at the river and arrived back at their home village on Aug. 22, the report said.

Xinhua blamed miscommunication for earlier reports that said the guides were missing too.

The tourists had set out with plenty of supplies - they rented eight donkeys to carry 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of gear that included food, medicine, a global positioning system and tents, Xinhua said.

It identified the six Russians as Vladimir Smetannikov, Sergey Chernik, Andrey Pautov, Dmitry Tishchenko, Ivan Chernik and Alexander Zverev. The report did not give their hometowns but said they ranged in age from 25 to 47 years.

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