At least 20 people running a mountain marathon cross-country ultramarathon race have died in northwestern China after hail, freezing rain and gale winds hit the high-altitude track, rescuers said Sunday. The rescue headquarters quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency said participants suffered from physical discomfort and the sudden drop in temperature, per the AP. Some went missing in the extreme weather around 1pm Saturday, when the 60-mile race in the Yellow River Stone Forest tourist site in Baiyin city in Gansu province was halted. The move came too late for many, however, and some on social media criticized organizers for not canceling the race as soon as severe weather was forecast in the region, per the Guardian.
Early Sunday, 20 people were found dead and one was missing, state broadcaster CCTV reported. More than 700 rescuers were taking part in the operation, made difficult by low nighttime temperatures and the area’s complex terrain and topography. A total of 172 people joined the race and 151 are confirmed to be safe. Some were treated for minor injuries and were stable, Xinhua said. In a Sunday news conference, Baiyin officials apologized before reporters and took blame for the deaths.