More than 20 runners killed as sudden ‘disastrous weather’ hits cross-country mountain race in China
Twenty-one people were killed after hail, freezing rain and high winds hit runners taking part in a 100km (62-mile) cross-country mountain race in China. The extreme weather struck a high-altitude section of the race held in the scenic Yellow River Stone Forest near Baiyin city in northwestern Gansu province on Saturday afternoon. Among the dead were elite Chinese long-distance runners, local media reported. Official news agency Xinhua confirmed the death toll had risen to 21, according to the local rescue command headquarters. State broadcaster CCTV also reported the final missing competitor had been found dead. Baiyin city mayor Zhang Xuchen said that at around noon on Saturday a section of the rugged ultramarathon course – between kilometres 20 and 31 – was “suddenly affected by disastrous weather”. “In a short period of time, hailstones and ice rain suddenly fell in the local area, and there were strong winds. The temperature sharply dropped,” Mr Zhang said. Shortly after receiving messages seeking help from some participants, marathon organisers dispatched a rescue team that managed to save 18 of the 172 participants. At around 2pm, weather conditions worsened and the race was immediately called off as local authorities sent more rescuers to help, Mr Zhang said. The victims included top domestic marathon runners Liang Jing and Huang Guanjun, according to a friend of Huang’s and Wei Pulong, Liang’s coach. Liang had won multiple Chinese ultramarathons in recent years. Huang, who was deaf-mute, won the men’s hearing-impaired marathon at the 2019 National Paralympic Games held in Tianjin. Marathon organisers confirmed his death to a friend. “As the event’s organiser, we feel a deep sense of guilt and self-blame, express our deep mourning for the victims and deep condolences to their families and the injured runners,” Mr Zhang said, as he and other local officials bowed. The race, backed by the Baiyin city government and the Chinese Athletic Association, has been held for four successive years.