Tens of thousands of visitors to the "Burning Man" desert festival in the US state of Nevada were stranded after heavy rains over the weekend. All access to the site is closed, the Washoe County Sheriff said on Saturday (local time).
Organizers asked visitors to conserve food and water. "If you have too much, share with your neighbors." One person died, as the broadcaster CNN reported on Sunday night with reference to the sheriff's office. The death occurred "during the rain". Details were initially unknown. "The family has been notified and the death is being investigated."
The annual festival is a scene happening with music and art events. It traditionally attracts artists, techno fans, pyrotechnicians and the curious from all over the world. In the desert, the participants build a temporary city called Black Rock City out of tents and mobile homes. A core ritual at the end of the cult event is the burning of the "Burning Man", an oversized wooden statue. "Currently all burns have been postponed," said the organizers on Saturday evening.
Ankle-deep, viscous mud
It was initially unclear when the visitors could start their journey home. "The gate will be reopened as soon as possible once it is safe to do so," the organizers' website reads. A temporary airport is also initially closed. Cars threatened to get stuck on the muddy ground. Only emergency vehicles were allowed to enter or leave the site, according to CNN. The organizers provided four-wheel drive vehicles for medical emergencies, they said on their website.
A festival-goer told CNN that the rain had turned the desert sands into ankle-deep and viscous mud, and many people wrapped garbage bags around their shoes to avoid getting stuck. Some festival-goers reportedly walked for miles through the thick mud to reach main roads outside the site and get home from there, according to media reports. Others stayed in their tents, hoping for better conditions. Footage on social media showed festival-goers struggling on the muddy paths.
"People build mud sculptures"
"People trying to bike through got stuck," Hannah Burhorn, a visitor from San Francisco, told CNN. Chaos reigns in the camp. "A lot of people are trying to cancel flights and organize everything for their extended stay here." And that with a shaky internet connection. But despite the bad conditions, many were in a good mood and just danced in the mud, as was seen on social media. And they are also creative, according to festival visitor Burhorn: "People build mud sculptures."
"We came here knowing that this is a place where we bring everything we need to survive," the organizers said. "That's why we are all well prepared for a weather event like this." This year's torrential rains fell on arid desert terrain, turning the ground into a mud bath. The usual amount of rain for two to three months fell between Friday and Saturday morning, according to CNN. More showers are expected for Sunday. The sun could return on Monday, according to forecasts. Last year, the temperatures at the festival rose to around 40 degrees Celsius.
According to the organizers, up to 75,000 people stayed in the desert city in 2022. Precise information about the number of festival visitors stranded this year was not initially available. The event was supposed to end on September 4th this year.
In 1986, the US artist Larry Harvey (1948-2018) was one of the co-founders of the initially small happening on a beach in San Francisco. After increasing popularity, the event was moved to the Nevada desert in 1990.