NEVADA — Weather conditions at the Burning Man festival in the US have eased enough to allow revelers to start leaving.
Heavy rain had turned the event, held in a desert in Nevada, into a mud bath.
The ground is now dry enough for vehicles to drive on it without getting stuck, and pictures show campervans driving out of the event.
Some 72,000 people had been stranded at the festival, but organizers said they are ready for a mass exodus from Monday morning, local time.
They have also confirmed that a man’s death at the event on Friday was unrelated to the bad weather.
They said that emergency services were called to help the man, said to be about 40 years old, but he could not be resuscitated. The local sheriff’s office earlier said it was investigating.
Organizers also said they had postponed the event’s traditional finale — the burning of an effigy —- to Monday evening.
The rainstorm that hit the Black Rock Desert near the end of last week is thought to have been the longest, heaviest rainfall since the festival began more than 30 years ago.
Martyna Sowa, a dancer who was booked to perform at the event, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that she was surprised at how bad the conditions became.
“It was a really strange experience,” she said.
Revelers, who are expected to be largely self-sufficient as part of the festival’s ethos, were told to take shelter and to conserve food, fuel and water.
But the bad weather meant the portable toilet facilities were temporarily out of use, because service vehicles were unable to drive on the mud to empty them.
“We were originally told we wouldn’t be able to leave until Tuesday but people who really have to go have been able to leave,” said Sowa.
While many remained on site, some chose to hike 5 miles (8km) through the mud to the nearest road. The event’s organizers arranged for buses to take people from the road to the nearby city of Reno — but some people say they had to pay for rides or hitchhike out of the area.
Other revelers took the boggy conditions it in their stride — dancing in the mud and holding karaoke parties. “I’m having a great time,” Jazz Korona told the BBC.
By Sunday, however, the sense of exhilaration had been replaced by a growing air of exasperation, with people increasingly keen to leave.
Faye, a Burning Man participant who lives in London, told the BBC she has been left “covered in mud for the past three days”.
“There are no showers here,” she said. “The only thing you can do is wash with baby wipes inside your tent.”
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.
This was scheduled to take place on Sunday but has been delayed by one day. Many of the festival’s other events, including Sowa’s, had to be cancelled.
Even before Burning Man officially started on Aug. 27, it was hit by the remnants of Hurricane Hilary — prompting organizers to close the gates to early arrivals.
Burning Man is one of America’s most well-known arts and culture events, in which visitors create a temporary city in the middle of the desert.
It 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 festivalgoers sometimes interview to get into popular camps and have to prove their commitment to its ideals. — BBC