Extreme weather hits China’s Gansu Province, killing 21 ultra-marathon runners

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Extreme weather, including cold temperatures, freezing rain, hailstorms, and gale-force winds, have claimed the lives of 21 ultra-marathon runners in northwest China's Gansu Province on May 22, 2021. There were 172 race participants in the race of which 151 have been confirmed safe with 8 sent to hospital in stable conditions, according to state-run media.

The 100 km (62 miles) long race started on Saturday morning (LT) in the Yellow River Stone Forest during sunny conditions. The weather conditions drastically changed by 13:00 LT, with a sudden drop in temperatures, freezing rain, hailstorms, and gale-force winds.

Most of the runners were wearing thin shorts and t-shirts and were unable to cope with the sudden temperature drop, with many of them reporting hypothermia.

According to unconfirmed meteorological reports, the temperatures dropped to -24 °C (11 °F) on Saturday afternoon.

"The wind was too strong and I repeatedly fell over," one of the participants wrote in a Weibo post. "My limbs were frozen stiff and I felt like I was slowly losing control of my body. I wrapped my insulation blanket around me, took out my GPS tracker, pressed the SOS button, and lost consciousness." When he came round he discovered a shepherd had carried him to a cave, placed him by the fire, and wrapped him in a duvet, IBT reports.

The organizers called off the race and launched a search and rescue mission of 1 200 people.

Among those who died is Liang Jing, one of China's well-known ultra-marathon runners. Jing was described as one of the best ultra-endurance athletes in the world.

The Gansu Meteorological Bureau's Early Warning Information Center has issued extreme weather warnings one day before the race, which organizers apparently ignored.

Featured image credit: NOAA-20/VIIRS, TW. Acquired May 22, 2021. Annotation: TW

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