DUSHANBE, March 18, 2010, Asia-Plus  -- The Anzob avalanche death toll has risen to eight.

An avalanche that occurred at the southern portal of the Anzob Tunnel yesterday afternoon killed at least 8 people, the source at the Committee for Emergency Situations (CES) told Asia-Plus today.  According to him, the avalanche length was some 15-180 meters and its height was some 15-20 meters.

We will recall that Jumaboy Tolibov, editor-in-chief of the Dushanbe weekly Paykon who departed Dushanbe for Khujand yesterday morning, told Asia-Plus by mobile phone from the avalanche site yesterday afternoon that the avalanche killed at least one person in the Anzob tunnel area Wednesday afternoon, while several people remained trapped under snow.

Tolibov noted that the avalanche occurred at the southern portal of the Anzob Tunnel at about 4:30 pm and hit a road that connects Dushanbe with Khujand, the capital of Sughd province.  “Six persons have been rescued and unfortunately, one body has been dug out,” Tolibov said, noting that he cannot say how may people are still under snow at the moment.

The CES sent rescue team and equipment to the avalanche site yesterday evening and another seven bodies were dug out.  The search-and rescue operation is going on, the CES source said.

Iranian specialists working at the Anzob Tunnel are also helping to clear the highway of snow.  Two heavy tractors are currently working at the site to clear snow from the road.

Mountains occupy 93 percent of Tajikistan''s territory and avalanches occur frequently in the mountain areas of the country but this year they have been particularly harmful due to heavy snow storms in winter months followed by an early spring.