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A heavy storm has claimed the lives of 21 people who were participating on Saturday in a 100-kilometer marathon in the mountains in Gansu Province, northeastern China, Chinese media reported on Sunday.
And hail and icy rain accompanied by strong winds fell on Saturday afternoon on the participants of the race, who were at a high altitude in the “Yellow River Stone Forest” near the city of Baiin in Gansu province.
The new China News Agency, citing rescue teams’ leadership, confirmed that 21 people were killed.
The state television network “CCTV” reported the same toll after it announced that a missing participant had been found, explaining that he was “dead.”
“Around noon, the high section of the former, at a distance of 20 to 31 kilometers, was suddenly affected by the catastrophic weather conditions,” said Baiyin Mayor Zhang Shuchin. “Within a short time, cold and icy rain suddenly fell in this area, storms and strong winds blew up,” he said, noting that “the temperature suddenly fell sharply.”
Among the victims are two nationally known runners, Liang Jing and Huang Gwangjun, according to local newspapers, which based on the testimonies of Wei Bollong, the first runner’s coach and a friend of the second, who said he obtained confirmation of Huang’s death from the event organizers.
Liang has won several multiple marathons in China in recent years. Huang, who was deaf and deaf, won the men’s hard of hearing marathon at the 2019 National Paralympic Games in Tianjin.
After receiving distress calls from some of the participants, the marathon organizers sent a team that rescued 18 of the 172 participants, according to Zhang, who works in the municipality.
He added that around 14:00 the weather worsened and the race was canceled, while local authorities sent more aid to the venue.
“As organizers of the event, we feel guilt and express our deep condolences to the families of the victims and the injured runners,” Zhang said.
It was the fourth round of the race organized by the Baiyin City Government and the Chinese Athletics Federation.
The mayor of Bayen said eight participants were being treated in hospital for minor injuries. And the new China News Agency reported that some of the competitors were suffering from hypothermia.
Some runners were photographed wrapped in life blankets while lying on stretchers.
Pictures published by Chinese media also showed a group of runners huddled together on the mountainside, some wrapped in blankets to stay alive.
In total, more than 700 rescuers have been mobilized to search for the missing. Local media footage showed rescue workers in uniforms and headlights climbing up the rocky terrain at night.
In total, more than 700 rescuers have been mobilized to search for the missing. Footage published in local media showed rescue workers in patchwork uniforms carrying lamps and climbing onto the rocky ground. Participants in the long-distance race were photographed wrapped in emergency blankets.
“I was wet, including my shoes and socks,” one of the survivors told local media. “I was unable to stand because of the wind, and I was very afraid that the gusts of wind would carry me, and the cold gradually became unbearable,” he added. “When I got off the mountain, I was feeling the symptoms of hypothermia,” he said.
And at night, temperatures continued to drop, making search and rescue operations more difficult, according to “New China”.
Gansu is one of the poorest regions of China, bordered by Mongolia to the north and Xinjiang to the west.
The county has been hit by floods and landslides in the past. More than a thousand people were killed in one city in 2010 in accidents of this kind.
It is witnessing earthquakes, too.
The Yellow River Stone Forest is known for its mountain scenery, which features stalagmites and stone pillars, and is a favorite location for filming many Chinese TV programs and movies, according to the China Daily.
Marathons and extreme sports have gained popularity among the Chinese middle class in recent years.
However, Chinese marathons are more often than not subject to fraud scandals.
In 2018, for example, more than 250 runners were excluded from the Shenzhen Half Marathon because they put fake numbers on their shirts or used short cuts.
Chinese sports authorities have so far banned a small number of them from racing for life.
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