Extreme weather kills 21 ultra-marathon runners in China

Carrie Guzman
May 25, 2021

The temperature dropped again during the night due to the area's complex terrain and topography, making the search and rescue more hard.

A mountainous section of the race was hit by hail, freezing rain and gales that caused temperatures to plummet.

Liang Jing, an ultramarathon champion, and Huang Guanjun, a hearing-impaired marathoner, were among 21 people who died in the 100km (60-mile) race.

Some of the runners used blankets to keep warm before the strong winds blew them away.

The 31-year-old has won numerous long-distance races in the country, including the Ultra Gobi in 2018 - a 400km race through the Gobi desert.

Organizers called the race off and rescuers worked until 12 p.m. local time on Sunday.

A separate report on the website of provincial weather services on Thursday also predicted a "significant" drop in temperature in most parts of Gansu - including Baiyin - through Sunday.

Some of the participants went missing and the race was halted.

A rescue operation deploying more than 1,200 rescuers was launched, assisted by thermal-imaging drones and radar detectors, state media said. By Sunday morning Chinese time, media confirmed that 21 runners of the 100-kilometer race's 172 participants perished in the storm, making this the largest tragedy to ever hit the sport of ultrarunning.

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At this stage, he said, "the other districts of the city were not in danger" as the lava was unlikely to reach those areas. Power was already cut in large parts of the city when hundreds of residents began leaving their homes.

Video footage broadcast on state media showed emergency rescue personnel in combat fatigues carrying flashlights as they climbed through the rocky terrain at night.

At the news briefing on Sunday, Baiyin officials bowed and apologised, saying they were saddened by the tragic deaths of the runners and that they were to be blamed.

"The rain really hurt, and the winds were so strong that you could only squint", he said.

"A few people have already lost consciousness and are foaming at the mouth", wrote one unidentified participant.

Chinese social media erupted in mourning and outrage today, as users blamed organisers for perceived failings in contingency planning.

According to one of the rescued participants, the previous day's weather forecast had not predicted such extreme conditions.

The region borders Mongolia and Xinjiang and is prone to earthquakes.

Marathons and extreme sports have seen a surge in popularity among China's middle class in recent years.

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