However, the emergency ministry contradicted the death toll, saying that a minimum of two people were killed in the avalanche.

"Rescuers have so far reported two people killed but because of bad weather they are only able to phone in occasionally," Munira Nazariyeva, the minsitry spokeswoman, said on Saturday.


It was not immediately clear how many people were trapped at the site, 70km north of Dushanbe.


"There are still people under snow, we cannot say how many at the moment. The rescue operation continues," she said.


Pictures shown on Russia's Vesti-24 news channel showed rescuers digging through the snow with shovels.
The interior ministry source said all victims were either drivers or passengers of cars trapped in the snow.


The vital link usually closed for the winter season, stayed open this year thanks to the newly built $31 million Anzob tunnel that goes under a snow-covered pass.