Kyrgyzstan avalanche video: snow covers hikers in Tian Shan mountains, did they survive - what is an avalanche

<p>(Photo: Harry Shimmin)</p>

(Photo: Harry Shimmin)

10 people, including nine Britons, have escaped a massive avalanche which washed over them in Kyrgyzstan's Tian Shan mountains.

In incredible footage, a British hiker has caught the harrowing moment the avalanche hurtled towards his tour group.

In an Instagram video, 26-year-old Harry Shimmin told how his party of 10 was hiking when they heard "the sound of deep ice cracking" and looked up to find a wall of snow rushing towards them.

Here is everything you need to know about the incident.

What happened?

In the clip, snow is seen breaking down a mountain in the distance before sweeping towards Shimmin - who had left the guided tour group to shoot photographs - forcing him to take cover as the snow fell on top of him.

Shimmin described how, had the group travelled five minutes further up the Central Asian trail, they would not have survived the event.

“I left it to the last second to move,” he said, “and yes I know it would have been safer moving to the shelter right away.”

A thick covering of ice and snow can be seen rushing over Shimmin's head as he continues to film the footage.

“I’m very aware that I took a big risk. I felt in control, but regardless, when the snow started coming over and it got dark/harder to breathe, I was bricking it and I thought I might die.”

How did the group survive?

Shimmin wrote that he felt "giddy" when he realised he was simply covered in light powder "without a scratch" - his group were supposed to walk the avalanche trail shortly after.

“Behind the rock it was like being inside a blizzard. Once it was over the adrenaline rush hit me hard. I was only covered in a small layer of snow, without a scratch.

“I knew the rest of the group was further away from the avalanche so should be okay. When I re-joined them I could see they were all safe, although one had cut her knee quite badly (she rode one of the horses to the nearest medical facility),” he said.

“Another had fallen off a horse and sustained some light bruising. The whole group was laughing and crying, happy to be alive (including the girl who cut her knee).”

Shimmin's video has already received hundreds of thousands of views on Instagram, and has been widely shared on Twitter and other social media platforms.

What is an avalanche?

“Avalanche” refers to the rapid flow of snow down a slope, such as a hill or mountain.

Avalanches can occur naturally or as a result of external factors such as humans, animals and earthquakes; large avalanches, which are mostly made up of moving snow and air, have the power to catch and move ice, rocks and trees.

Avalanches typically speed quickly and develop in bulk and volume as they gather more snow.

Avalanches can occur in any mountain range with persistent snow. They are most common in the winter and spring, but can occur at any time of year.

Avalanches are one of the most dangerous natural risks to life and property in mountainous places, and tremendous efforts are undertaken to control them.