ChinaSudden hypothermia, injuries, hunger and fainting are the circumstances of many athletes in the weather disaster that killed 21 people at the ultra trail race on May 22.
The 172 athletes in the 100km distance of the Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon started on the morning of May 22, from the Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Baiyin City, Gansu Province. The bad weather happened around 1 p.m., when they climbed to an altitude of about 2,000 meters above sea level, at the distance from the 20th to the 31st kilometer.
When the incident happened, most athletes were only wearing shorts and T-shirts. They had no protective gear in the conditions of freezing temperatures down to 0 degrees Celsius, gusts of 7-8 degrees, heavy rain. Some had hypothermia, others passed out from the cold.
On the sheet South China Morning Post, an unnamed survivor said that the athletes did not receive any forecast information about sudden extreme weather conditions. This person continued to run when the weather started to turn bad, but the more he ran, the more he noticed that the athletes ahead, including elite athletes, one by one gave up. The organizers charge 1,600 yuan (about 248) for each bib run. At that moment, the person thought to himself, “Is this how I wasted 1,600 yuan?”.
“Now that I think about it, I just want to slap myself,” said the unnamed athlete. He added that he and other athletes had to climb to a height of 1,000 meters on a track about 8 kilometers long full of rocks, mud, in cold winds, freezing rain and poor visibility. According to this athlete, the risk prevention of the organizers is very weak, each monitoring point has only about two volunteers. Checkpoints do not have supplies, tents or medical staff.
“From then on, there’s only one way up and no way down. That part can’t even be reached by motorbikes, so there’s no food and water supply station, even though you’ve reached the top of the mountain. I was wet and could barely stand. I found a place to warm myself with a thermal pad, but it was also blown away by the wind. I saw other athletes’ blankets torn to pieces by the wind.” , he told.
The unnamed athlete himself soon lost feeling in his fingertips, because it was too cold. “I put my fingers in my mouth, tried to warm them up, but still couldn’t feel anything. Then even my tongue froze. That’s when I decided to give up. Luckily I made the decision. I decided that, because I had symptoms of hypothermia.”
On the way down, despite seeing many other athletes unconscious, he and the others in a similarly frozen and exhausted state no longer had the strength to help. Tracking other athletes by GPS signal is also ineffective due to poor signal. Not only hypothermia, some athletes also injured and cut their hands because of falling.
Ma Shuzhi, one of the female athletes who escaped, feels lucky to be alive. “The biggest lesson learned from this run: Survive,” she said on the news site Chengdu.
Renxun, another victim, said: “The wind was very strong and I couldn’t stand up. Before, when I participated in other competitions, if I didn’t feel good, I would give up. But this time I didn’t know I was down. I just felt that the situation was serious, blurred vision and almost fell asleep. I had to bite my tongue to stay awake.”
Wang Jinmin felt lucky to be found by the rescue team: “At first I still had the strength to pinch my skin. But as the temperature gradually decreased, I gradually fainted. I tried everything to keep myself awake, like biting my lip, biting my tongue. At that time, I wanted to see my family. Fortunately, the rescue team discovered and took me to the hospital.”
Athlete Luo Jing said that she received information that the weather would be sunny and had prepared sun protection measures. However, when he received a forecast about bad weather, he was still subjective because locals said it would only rain lightly. This athlete did not prepare warm clothes when entering the race.
Zhang Xuchen, mayor of Baiyin city, Gansu province – where the tragedy happened – bowed his head to apologize to the families of the victims at a press conference on May 23. “This is an incident that happened when the weather in the area changed suddenly. As an event organizer, we are extremely sorry and regretful,” he said. The Gansu provincial government set up a task force to investigate and clarify the responsibilities of the parties involved in the incident.
Sheet Dwnews criticized the organizers for not updating the weather forecast and having a risk assessment for extreme weather. Accordingly, the Gansu meteorological agency has released information forecasting that this place will have thunderstorms and strong winds, and the temperature will decrease, and at the same time, warn people about heavy rain, hail, strong winds and lightning. But the organizers did not mention the warning about cold air when disseminating information. This is the main cause of disaster, when athletes are not informed in advance to prepare.
According to the AP, many athletes participating are professionals, such as Liang Jing and Huang Guanjun, two of the best long-distance runners in China and in the group of 21 unlucky athletes. These people are skilled enough to prepare for the risk, if provided with the correct information. But the organizer – Shengjing Sports and Culture Development Co., Ltd – insisted they did not receive an accurate forecast of the weather at the time of the race.
In one program, radio CCTV said that extreme sports should be properly organized to avoid rare and catastrophic tragedies like those in Gansu. Ultra marathons and ultra trails have become popular in China in recent years, as the country’s middle class grows larger and needs to find entertainment. Trail races are often held in remote mountainous areas, with large prize money to attract participants. The governments of provinces in western China such as Yunnan, Gansu, Sichuan… even spend part of their budgets to organize running races as part of their tourism development strategy.
Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon has been organized by the local government for the past four years. This trail run is part of efforts to boost tourism for Gansu – one of China’s poorest provinces. This year, nearly 10,000 people signed up for the Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon, in three categories: Beginner, Run 21km and Run 100km.
Xuan Thang synthetic
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