Twenty-one people were killed when extremely cold weather struck during an ultramarathon on Saturday in China’s northwestern Gansu province, state media reported on Sunday.
The 100-kilometer (62-mile) race started in a lush tourism area near a bend in China's second-longest river, the Yellow River. Runners would pass through deep canyons in a rocky desert on their way to the finish line. Under overcast conditions, the race began on Saturday morning with runners dressed in t-shirts and shorts.
A massive rescue effort has been initiated, with over 1,200 rescuers dispatched, assisted by thermal-imaging drones, radar detectors and demolition equipment, according to Xinhua. Temperatures dropped again during the night due to the area’s complex terrain and topography, making the search and rescue more difficult, Xinhua said.
“According to the rescue headquarters, at about 1 p.m. Saturday, hails, freezing rain and gales hit the area of the race's high-altitude stage between 20 to 31 kilometers,” the agency reported. “Participants suffered from physical discomfort and loss of temperature due to the sudden drop in air temperature. Some of the participants went missing and the race was halted. Temperatures in the mountainous terrain dropped further overnight, making search and rescue "more difficult," it said.