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04th Sep 2023

Tens of thousands left stranded by floods at Burning Man festival

Simon Kelly

Burning Man

Torrential downpours have destroyed the festival site.

Tens of thousands have been left stranded at the US festival Burning Man after unusual torrential downpours flooded the desert-based event.

All routes out of the arts and performance festival, which sets up in the Black Rock desert, Nevada, suffered a complete breakdown as built up mud made it impossible to escape.

Festival-goers were ordered by authorities and organisers to “shelter in place” and conserve water and food over the weekend and wait out the conditions. Toilets were also not working at the event.

The average rainfall for the whole month of September in the area is reportedly about 0.6cm, with possibly close to 2.5cm falling this weekend, according to Mark Deutschendorf, a meteorologist with the US National Weather Service in Reno.

CEO of Burning Man Project, Marian Goodell, told NBC that there was “no cause for panic”, despite the thousands of stranded people.

“We do not see this as an evacuation situation,” Goodell said. “The water is drying up.”

Unlike traditional large-scale festivals, Burning Man does not have any planned musical performances, but is made up of performance art, installations, avant-garde art and community-focused events with festival-regulars – called “burners” – heavily involved.

The festival culminates in its namesake, the burning of a large effigy of a man which symbolises the end of the event. The burning has been postponed this year following the weather to tonight, Monday, September 4.

Person dies at Burning Man festival

Officials also confirmed that someone had died at the festival over the weekend. The person’s family has been informed by authorities.

The death, of which very little details had been released, led to rampant online speculation over the conditions of the event.

However, it was later stated by authorities that the death was “unrelated to the weather”.

While conditions have been bleak, there is optimism about upcoming weather conditions, with dry spells set to alleviate the flooding so the roads can be opened up again.

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