- Twenty-one runners died during an ultramarathon in China’s Gansu Province on May 22 when severe weather, which was reportedly unforeseen, swept across the course at high altitude.
- A search-and-rescue mission was deployed, and over 151 people were rescued.
- Local Chinese authorities have promised an investigation into the runners’ deaths.
Twenty-one runners died while racing an ultramarathon in northwestern China when severe weather hit the course during the race.
On Saturday, May 22, 172 runners started the Yellow River Stone Forest 100K, a high-altitude race that ran between 6,500 and 9,800 feet in the Yellow River Stone Forest tourist site in the Gansu province, near the city of Baiyin. As the runners spread throughout the mountains into the high altitude section, hail, freezing rain, and gale-force winds swept across the course, causing the temperatures to plummet, according to state media Xinhua News Agency.
This prompted an all-night rescue operation; more than 700 personnel were dispatched to rescue the runners on the course, and of that group, 151 were rescued. In total, over 1,200 rescuers participated in the search, and search operations concluded at noon on May 23.
Local reports stated that runners were not aware of the weather conditions on race day, and that many runners were reportedly wearing short-sleeve tops and shorts. However, Baiyin city’s local branch of the National Early Warning Information Center had issued an earlier warning of hail and strong winds.
The race organizers have not been reached for comment at this time. Baiyin city Mayor Zhang Xuchen held a news conference and profoundly apologized as the organizer of the event. The government promised a full investigation.
“As the organizer of the event, we feel a deep sense of guilt and remorse. We express our deep condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families and the victims,” said Zhang, during the news conference.
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