Cold weather hit an ultramarathon in northwestern China, killing 21 people and sparking anger online over the lack of planning, according to reports.
The race started at 9 a.m. local time on Saturday in the northwestern province of Gansu.
An ultramarathon is a long-distance race that extends beyond the standardized length (since 1921) of the 26-mile 385-meter marathon. The race in China has been set at 100 km over difficult terrain including cliffs and canyons, Reuters reported.
The forecast was for wind and rain, but nothing as bad as what the riders encountered.
Three hours after the start, temperatures dropped as hail, high winds and freezing rain hit the course. Temperatures reach a low of 43 degrees Fahrenheit – not counting the wind chill.
Officials halted the race after 172 runners went missing.
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More than 1,200 rescuers, aided by thermal imaging drones and radar detectors, deployed in the area, have safely recovered 151 runners. Eight were injured. The remaining runners were found dead at various locations along the route, with the latest casualty found on Sunday morning.
Rescue efforts were complicated due to a landslide after the rain, The New York Times reported.
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The search continued on Sunday morning, with further drops in temperature making the search more difficult. Many runners suffered from hypothermia.
Baiyin City Mayor Zhang Xuchen said on Sunday that provincial authorities would investigate the incident further, but Chinese social media exploded with outrage directed at the local government for not planning more carefully, said reported the Guardian.
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“Why didn’t the government read the weather forecast and do a risk assessment? One commentator wrote.
“It’s totally a man-made calamity. Even if the weather is unexpected, where were the contingency plans? “
Baiyin city officials publicly accepted the blame at a press conference on Sunday.
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“As the organizer of the event, we feel deeply guilty,” Mr. Zhang said. “We express our grief for the victims and our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and injured. ”