China plans to build a highway on the side of Mount Everest to ease the Olympic torch’s journey to the peak of the world’s tallest mountain before the 2008 Beijing Games, state media reported Tuesday.
Construction of the road, budgeted at $19.7 million would turn a 67-mile rough path from the foot of the mountain to a base camp at 17,060 feet “into a blacktop highway fenced by undulating guardrails,” the Xinhua News Agency said.
Xinhua said construction, which would start next week, would take about four months. The new highway would become a major route for tourists and mountaineers, it said.
In April, organizers for the Beijing Summer Olympics announced plans for the longest torch relay in Olympic history – an 85,000-mile, 130-day route that would cross five continents and reach the 29,035-foot summit of Everest.
Taking the torch to the summit, seen by some as a way for Beijing to underscore its claims to Tibet, is expected to be one of the relay’s highlights.
Blasts kill 30 alleged insurgents
About 30 suspected Islamic insurgents were killed Tuesday when explosions ripped through a compound near the Afghanistan border that was described by Pakistani intelligence officials as a militant training camp.
The compound, which housed a madrassa, or Muslim seminary, was located in North Waziristan, a semiautonomous tribal area along the Afghan frontier that is a known sanctuary for Taliban and militants linked to al-Qaida.
Tribal sources said they believed the blasts were caused by missiles fired either by an drone or by Western forces from across the border in Afghanistan. A U.S. military spokesman said he had no knowledge of such a strike.
Pakistani officials denied that any U.S. or Pakistani military strike had occurred. A Pakistani army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Arshad Waheed, suggested that the blasts had been caused by bomb-making gone awry.
Sewage tunnel in danger of failing
There is a “high possibility” a huge underground drainage tunnel could soon fail, flooding parts of this mountain-ringed metropolis 15 feet deep in sewage, the national water agency said Tuesday.
Officials have been puzzled for years by the gradual decrease in capacity of the 7-yard-wide tunnel built in the 1970s to drain wastewater from the valley, which is home to 20 million people and has no natural outlet. They have speculated that the tunnel may be partially clogged or that its walls could be decaying.
But because it is constantly filled with water, officials have not been able to travel through the structure to inspect it – or perform much-needed maintenance.
“Because of a lack of maintenance in Mexico City’s deep drain over the last 15 years, there is a high possibility that it could fail,” according to a National Water Commission statement.