In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers walk into the accident site to search for survivors in Jingtai County of Baiyin City, northwest China's Gansu province, on Sunday. (AP)
In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers walk into the accident site to search for survivors in Jingtai County of Baiyin City, northwest China's Gansu province, on Sunday. (AP)

Deadly cold snap strikes marathon race in China, leaves 21 runners dead

Freezing rain, battering hail, stormy weather and a sudden drop in temperature struck the 100km race, which kicked off near Yellow River Stone Forest, a popular tourist site in Jingtai County, Baiyin City in Gansu
By Sutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Nadim Siraj
UPDATED ON MAY 23, 2021 07:07 PM IST

In a freak-weather tragedy, a total of 21 runners were killed in the middle of a 100km marathon after a deadly cold snap struck the long-distance mountain race in northwest China’s Gansu province on Saturday.

Freezing rain, battering hail, stormy weather and a sudden drop in temperature struck the ultra-marathon race, which kicked off near Yellow River Stone Forest, a popular tourist site in Jingtai County, Baiyin City in Gansu.

When the cold snap struck, the race, comprising 172 participants, was halted. Soon after, several runners were reported to have gone missing, and a rescue operation was launched.

By Sunday noon, the remains of the 21 victims had been recovered at the site of the tragedy, the rescue headquarters was quoted as saying by the news agency Xinhua.

The other 151 participants were all confirmed safe, of whom eight suffered minor injuries and were treated in hospital, the media report said.

“According to the rescue headquarters, at about 1pm on Saturday, hail, freezing rain and gales hit the area of the race’s high-altitude stage, between 20-31km. Participants suffered from physical discomfort due to the sudden drop in air temperature,” the report said.

Rescue work was challenging due to the harsh, mountainous terrain, a further drop in the night-time temperature and poor communications signals.

More than 1,200 rescuers were deployed, assisted by thermal-imaging drones and radar detectors, according to state media.

National broadcaster CCTV quoted rescuers as saying the low temperature was the biggest threat faced by participants as they wore thin clothes.

One runner, Mao Shuzhi, told Reuters news agency that she turned back midway into the race when the weather abruptly changed.

“The rain was getting heavier and heavier,” said Mao, who was about 24km into the race at the time and hadn’t yet reached the mountains.

She decided to head back to her hotel, having had previous bad experiences with hypothermia, but others carried on or were already in the worst-hit areas.

Baiyin’s mayor Zhang Xuchen said, “As the organiser of the event, we are full of guilt and remorse. We express deep condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and the injured.”

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