China Ultra Marathon: Severe weather kills 21 runners

Twenty-one runners died after the extreme weather hit a long-distance race in northwest China.

Strong winds and freezing rain hit the participants in a 100-kilometer (60-mile) ultra-marathon in the Yellow Stone Forest, a tourist site in Gansu Province, on Saturday.

The race was stopped when some of the 172 runners disappeared, and a rescue operation was launched.

Many of the stuck runners reportedly suffered from hypothermia.

Officials said 151 runners had now been confirmed as being safe and eight of them had been injured.

The race started at 9:00 local time (01:00 GMT) on Saturday, when some of the competitors went out wearing only shorts and T-shirts.

Surviving participants said the forecast showed little wind and rain, but nothing as extreme as what they experienced.

About three hours after the start, a mountainous section of the race was hit by hail, heavy rain and gusts of wind, which caused temperatures to drop, according to sources in the nearby town of Bayne.

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One runner, Mao Shuji, told Reuters news agency she was walking around when the weather changed.

“The rain was getting heavier,” said Ms. Mao, who was about 24km to the race at the time and had not yet reached the mountains.

She decided to return to the kennel after experiencing previous experiences with hypothermia, but others continued or were already in the areas most severely affected.

A large crowd of ultra-marathon runners wave flags as they set off before the disaster occurred in Gansu, China on May 22, 2021

According to reports, many runners lost their way on the track because the weather affected visibility.

According to the country’s media, more than 1,200 rescuers were transferred, with the help of drones and radar detectors.

The activity continued through the night until Sunday morning, during which a further drop in temperature made the search even more difficult, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

The deaths have sparked public outrage on Chinese social media, with anger directed mainly at the Bayan government and unhappiness over the lack of contingency planning.

At a news conference on Sunday, Bayan Mayor Zhang Shushan said: “As the event organizer we are full of guilt and remorse. We express our deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and the injured.”

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