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    Burning Man: Police investigating death during heavy rain


    Sep 4, 2023

    NEVADA — An investigation has been launched into the death of a person during torrential rain at the Burning Man festival in the US state of Nevada.

    Thousands of people remain stranded at the event after the bad weather turned the ground to deep, slippery mud.

    Revelers have been told to take shelter and conserve their food, while roads in and out of the event are closed as vehicles can barely move.

    Burning Man is held in the Black Rock Desert, which is usually dry and dusty.

    In a statement on Saturday, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said it is “currently investigating a death which occurred during this rain event” but did not give any further details on the circumstances. The person’s family had been notified, the statement added.

    The unusual rainstorms came towards the end of the nine-day festival, when the biggest crowds arrive to see the grand finale — the burning of the giant wooden effigy.

    The worst of the rain has now passed, according to BBC Weather, but there is still a risk of some further showers and thunderstorms.

    It could be several days before the ground dries up enough for people to leave and for this reason, they have been told to conserve their food, water and fuel.

    The festival’s toilets are also out of use, revelers say, because the service vehicles cannot drive on the mud to empty them.

    According to the sheriff’s office, some people who had tried to drive out of the festival had instead made the muddy ground even worse.

    Festival-goers told the BBC they watched on as some people tried to drive away — but they quickly became bogged in the thick clay-like mud.

    There are currently thought to be around 70,000 people stranded at the site, Pershing County Sheriff’s Sgt. Nathan Carmichael told US media.

    Some have managed to leave, however. American DJ Diplo wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he and comedian Chris Rock walked 5 miles (8km) to a road, where they were given a lift by fans.

    Others have also had to rely on strangers.

    Ashley Smith, who lives in London, told the BBC that he and his friends left a lot of their gear behind and walked to the road, where they managed to hitchhike to San Francisco. The whole journey took 14 hours.

    The event’s organizers have arranged for buses to pick people up from the road and take them to the city of Reno, more than 100 miles away.

    Milia Nirshberg, 12, who is at the festival with her father for the second year running, told the BBC that they had let friends stay in their campervan, and were also allowing people to use the van’s toilet.

    “The people in the tents are having a hard time because it’s flooding. Since we’re in a campervan we’re trying to invite people to come stay with us because they don’t have food or water,” she said.

    Burning Man is one of America’s most well-known arts and culture events. Visitors create a temporary city in the middle of the desert, and are expected to be largely self-sufficient while they are there.

    “We have come here knowing this is a place where we bring everything we need to survive,” said Burning Man in a statement. “It is because of this that we are all well-prepared for a weather event like this.”

    As well as music, the festival usually features giant interactive art installations — but many of the attractions had to be canceled.

    Nonetheless, many were trying to make the best of the situation, dancing in the mud to techno music.

    “We’re taking it as an opportunity to hang out and spend more time with our new friends and old friends in the camp,” reveler, Josiah Roe said.

    Burning Man was founded in June 1986 and was first held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 1990.

    Tickets can be very hard to get and festival-goers sometimes interview to get into popular camps and have to prove their commitment to its ideals.

    Some groups spend the entire year planning their camp, artwork and theme.

    But this year there had been worries about the weather and tickets were changing hands on the secondary market at below market rate. — BBC

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