21 die in mountain ultramarathon in China, including legend Liang Jing

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, Sunday, May 23, 2021.

At least 21 ultramarathon athletes died after brutal weather swept across a mountainous area of northwest China during a race, state media reported Sunday.

Another 151 participants in the 100 kilometer race – 62 miles – in Baiyin City in Gansu Province were accounted for, and eight people were hospitalized in stable condition, local rescue headquarters reported.

The officials cited a sudden, dramatic change in the weather during Saturday’s race in the Yellow River Stone Forest. At about 1 p.m., hail freezing rain and gales hit the area of the race’s high-altitude stage as runners were climbing 6,500 feet above sea level in shorts and T-shirts.

Some participants posted videos requesting help in a WeChat group chat. Some of the participants went missing and the race was halted. Local governments initiated an emergency response and organized over 1,200 rescuers to search for the missing athletes in amid mudslides and localized flooding.

“Participants suffered from physical discomfort and loss of temperature due to the sudden drop in air temperature,” state media reported.

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The temperature dropped again during the night because of the area’s complex terrain and topography, making the search and rescue effort more difficult, authorities said. Among the dead was Liang Jing, 31, an ultramarathon champion and three-time winner of the race.

The province has set up an investigation team to look further into the cause of the incident, Baiyin City Mayor Zhang Xuchen said.

“As the organizer of the event, we feel a deep sense of guilt and remorse,” he said. “We express our deep condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families and the victims.”

Many WeChat group chats involving the event’s organizer and participants had released weather warnings for Saturday on Friday night, officials said. The terrain along the running course is complex and there was a possibility of short-term extreme weather in the area, according to local weather authorities.

“In ultrarunning’s biggest tragedy, 21 runners died during severe weather at China’s Yellow River Stone Forest 100k on Saturday,” the ultrarunning website irunfar.com said in a post Sunday. “We are at a loss for words in this horrific moment.”

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