Twenty-one runners died of extreme cold during an ultramarathon held in northwest China’s Gansu province on Sunday (23). The 100-kilometer race started on Saturday (22) on one of the curves of the Yellow River, an area known for its cliffs and columns of rocks.
The route would follow corridors through canyons, hills and an arid plateau at an altitude of 1000 meters. The tragedy sparked a reaction due to the lack of an emergency plan to help the corridors.
The 172-strong race started at 9 a.m. local time with runners in shorts and t-shirts under cloudy skies, social media photos show.
At around 12 p.m. on Saturday, a mountainous part of the race was hit by hail, freezing rain and gales that brought the temperature down, local officials said. “The rain was getting heavier and heavier,” said Mao Shunzi, a race participant.
Shivering with cold, she returned before the higher part of the race, due to bad experiences of hypothermia. The temperature in the region recorded a minimum level of 6 ºC on Saturday (22). “I regretted it at first, thinking maybe it was just a passing rain, but when I saw the strong winds and rain through the windows of the hotel rooms, I felt lucky to have made this decision, ”Mao said.
A rescue effort with more than 1,200 people has started, with the help of thermal imaging, drones, radar and demolition equipment, according to the Chinese state press. A landslide caused by bad weather made the rescue even more difficult. According to meteorological services, a sharp drop in temperature and strong winds were expected in the region.
“It was very hot the day before, and although the weather forecast indicates moderate winds and rain, everyone thought it would be mild,” Mao said. “Northwest China is dry.” Many of the runners suffered from hypothermia and were lost amid high winds and heavy rain. The Gansu provincial government has assembled a team to investigate the cause of death, according to local media.