Twenty-one people were killed when extremely cold weather struck during an ultramarathon in rugged Gansu province in northwestern China, sparking public outrage on Sunday over the lack of contingency planning.
The more than 60-mile race began on Saturday from a scenic area at a bend in the Yellow River known for its sheer cliffs and rock columns. The route would take runners through canyons and hills on an arid plateau at an elevation of over 3,300 feet.
The race kicked off 9 a.m. (9 p.m. ET) with runners clad in t-shirts and shorts under overcast skies, according to photographs posted on the social media account of the Yellow River Stone Forest area in Jingtai, a county under the jurisdiction of Baiyin city.
Around noon on Saturday, a mountainous section of the race was hit by hail, freezing rain and gales that caused temperatures to plummet, officials from Baiyin told a news briefing on Sunday.
“The rain was getting heavier and heavier,” said Mao Shuzhi, who was about 15 miles into the race at the time.