BEIJING – Rescuers on Friday found two survivors from a missing canoe expedition Friday, 20 days after the six-member Russian group failed to make a rendezvous in western China, Chinese and Russian reports said.
Russian and Chinese rescuers found Alexander Zverev, his face pale and his body covered with mud and dust, on a bank along the upper reaches of the Yurungkax River on Friday morning, and found Andrei Pautov in the evening, the reports said.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Veronika Smolskaya confirmed Pautov's rescue, but gave no details on his condition. The man's age wasn't immediately known.
Zverev, 35, had earlier been quoted by ITAR-Tass as saying that his five traveling companions had all been killed in two separate accidents on Aug. 24 and Aug. 27, when their boats overturned.
He told Russia's Vesti television news program that he lived in a cave for 20 days, using tree branches to keep warm, ITAR-Tass said.
"Every evening I made a bed for myself from tree branches, tried not to get cold, to preserve heat to keep the body warm," he was quoted as saying.
Xinhua said that when Zverev was found he was able to walk and talk clearly, and was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Hotan city in China's Central Asian frontier province of Xinjiang.
Three other members of the expedition were found dead last week. Medical experts who examined the bodies said they had fallen into the river and drowned, Xinhua reported Thursday.
One member of group remains missing.
Rescue efforts have been hampered by the difficult terrain and dust storms, which forced a suspension of the search earlier this week.
The six Russians set out Aug. 21 for a 12-day trip along the Yurungkax, which cuts through the rugged Kunlun Mountains before disappearing in the Taklamakan Desert.
They were reported missing after they did not turn up at a prearranged meeting point on Sept. 2.
Canoeing on the upper reaches of the Yurungkax is dangerous, given the elevation of 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) and higher and the river's fast, rocky course, said Wang Wei of the China Association for Scientific Expedition, who canoed the Yurungkax's lower stretches in the 1990s.
"The water flows really fast, and rocks in the river, which could strike the canoe at any minute, are a main threat," Wang said.