May 24 (UPI) — Twenty-one ultramarathon runners have been confirmed dead after they were submerged in extreme cold weather during a cross-country race in the mountains of northwestern China over the weekend, local media said.
The state-run Xinhua reported the death toll on Sunday, citing rescue officials who said the remains of the 21 victims had been removed from the mountain in Baiyin City in China’s Gansu Province by noon.
More than 1,200 rescuers participated in the effort in which the other 151 participants in the race were confirmed safe, the Chinese media reported, stating only eight suffered minor injuries.
The deaths have prompted China’s top sports governing body to call for the enhancement of its sports safety management.
Baiyin City Mayor Zhang Xuchen told reporters during a Sunday press conference that the deaths were caused by a sudden drop in temperature. Rescue officials said runners at high altitudes combated freezing rain and hail that started to unexpectedly fall early Saturday afternoon.
“As the organizer of the event, we feel a deep sense of guilt and remorse,” Zhang is quoted as having said. “We express our deep condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families and the victims.”