21 Runners Dead After Extreme Weather Hits Chinese Ultramarathon

Twenty-one folks, together with two of China’s high marathon athletes, died after freezing rain and excessive winds struck a 62-mile mountain race in northwestern China, native officers mentioned on Sunday.

Liang Jing, 31, an ultramarathon champion, and Huang Guanjun, the winner of the boys’s marathon for hearing-impaired runners at China’s 2019 National Paralympic Games, have been amongst these discovered useless, in accordance with state information media.

The deaths prompted outrage in China, with on-line commentators questioning the preparedness of the native authorities that organized the race, held at Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Gansu Province.

Hours into the occasion on Saturday, the climate all of a sudden deteriorated because the runners have been climbing 6,500 ft above sea degree to the 12-mile mark, in accordance with Zhang Xuchen, the mayor of the close by metropolis of Baiyin, who fired the beginning pistol. Runners wearing shorts and T-shirts have been all of a sudden going through freezing circumstances, and rain turned to hail. Some handed out from the chilly.

“In a short period of time, hailstones and freezing rain fell in the area, and there were strong winds,” Mr. Zhang mentioned. “The temperature dropped sharply.”

Some of the individuals despatched a video message asking for assist, and the authorities despatched a rescue staff that assisted 18 of the athletes, Mr. Zhang mentioned. The race was referred to as off by 2 p.m. on Saturday.

By night, officers had began an enormous rescue effort involving 1,200 folks in search and rescue groups, together with thermal imaging drones and different gear, state media reported. In video footage from China’s state broadcaster, rescuers may very well be seen fanning out into the darkish with flashlights, some in fight fatigues, others in blue or orange jumpsuits with helmets.

Credit…Jean-Pierre Clatot/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The race, which started at a vacationer web site close to the Yellow River and adopted a route by way of canyons with enormous stone stalagmites, had been organized by the native authorities for the previous 4 years. It was seen as a approach to promote tourism within the space, which is in one in every of China’s poorest provinces.

This 12 months, 172 folks participated within the 62-mile race, whereas tons of of others have been registered to run in shorter occasions. Officials mentioned 151 race individuals have been confirmed to be protected, and that one final lacking runner was discovered useless on Sunday morning. Eight folks have been being handled at a hospital.

Mr. Zhang mentioned that the rescue efforts had been sophisticated by a landslide after the rain. The area is liable to mudslides and floods.

By Sunday, dialogue on-line in China targeted on the obvious failure to organize for the potential for excessive climate. Some questioned whether or not organizers had paid sufficient consideration to the climate forecast.

The information that two elite runners have been among the many useless amplified the general public anger. The state-owned Beijing News reported the demise of Mr. Liang, who has received a number of ultramarathons in China lately. Two runners who helped with the rescue effort confirmed the demise of Mr. Huang, in accordance with the state-owned Red Star News.

Steve Brammar, the race director for the Hong Kong 100 ultramarathon, mentioned on Sunday that Mr. Liang was among the many finest ultra-endurance athletes on the planet.

“We will miss his long, thoughtful, honest answers to questions at the press conferences and his powerful, brave running style,” Mr. Brammar mentioned in a message posted on Facebook. Mr. Liang ran within the Hong Kong race final 12 months.

“We will always remember him at the finish line of the 2020 event, holding his baby and hugging his wife,” Mr. Brammar mentioned.

The Gansu Province authorities has arrange a staff to research the deaths, in accordance with state information media.

Mr. Zhang apologized at a televised information convention on Sunday.

“As the event organizer, we feel deeply guilty,” Mr. Zhang mentioned. “We express our sorrow for the victims and our deep condolences to the families of the victims and the injured.”

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