21 dead in China during ultra-long race in extreme conditions

During a 100-kilometer sports race in the Chinese mountain, 21 people died due to the weather conditions. The organizer and mayor of Baiyin City expressed “immense feeling of guilt.”

On May 22, 21 people died among participants in a 100-kilometer mountain race in northwestern China as a result of sudden severe weather conditions, Chinese media reported on May 23.

Hail, freezing rains and high winds hit the runners at high altitude in the Yellow River Stone Forest near Baiyin, Gansu Province in the afternoon.

The official China New Agency confirmed the deaths of 21 people, citing the headquarters of the emergency services. CCTV television reported a similar toll, with the last missing competitor found dead.

The mayor of Baiyin, Zhang Xuchen, said that on May 22 at around noon, a hilly part of the route, lying between kilometers 20 and 31, was “suddenly struck by catastrophic weather conditions”.

Among those who died were elite Chinese long-distance runners. Liang had won several multi-marathons in China in recent years. Huang, who was deaf and mute, won the men’s marathon for the hearing impaired at the 2019 National Paralympic Games in Tianjin.

“An immense feeling of guilt”, according to Zhang Xuchen

Shortly after receiving pleas for help from some participants, marathon organizers dispatched a rescue team that managed to save 18 of 172 participants, according to the mayor. At around 2 p.m., the weather conditions worsened and the race was canceled, while local authorities sent more aid to the scene, he continued.

“As the organizer of the event, we feel an immense sense of guilt, we express our deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the injured runners,” said Zhang Xuchen, as he and other local officials spoke inclined. This was the fourth edition of the race, organized by the Baiyin City Government and the Chinese Athletics Association.

New China reported that some runners were suffering from hypothermia, and Zhang Xuchen said eight people were hospitalized with minor injuries. Some runners, wrapped in survival blankets, were filmed being lying on a stretcher by rescuers. Photos released by Chinese media also showed a group of runners huddled together on the mountainside, some wrapped in survival blankets.

In total, more than 700 rescuers were mobilized to search for the missing. Local media footage showed rescue workers in fatigues with headlamps scaling the rocky terrain at night.

An “unbearable” cold, according to a survivor

“My whole body was soaked, including my shoes and socks. I couldn’t stand up straight because of the wind, I was very afraid of being blown away. The cold became more and more unbearable, ”one survivor told local media, adding:“ As I walked down the mountain, I was already feeling symptoms of hypothermia. ”

The provincial authorities have set up a commission of inquiry to determine the causes of this tragedy, said Zhang Xuchen.

Gansu, one of the poorest regions in China, borders Mongolia to the north and Xinjiang to the west. Deadly floods and landslides have hit the province in the past. They are said to have killed more than 1,000 people in a city in 2010. The region is also prone to earthquakes.

The Yellow River Stone Forest is famous for its rugged mountain scenery marked by stalagmites and stone pillars. It is often used as a frame in many Chinese TV shows and movies, according to the China Daily.

Marathon and extreme sports have gained popularity among the Chinese middle class in recent years.

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