Chinese officials cited a dramatic change in weather conditions during the race in the Yellow River Stone Forest on Saturday as the fatal reason behind the horrific tragedy, with some of the victims issuing cries for help in a messaging group before disappearing as the race was halted.
Severe gales and freezing hail and rain are said to have hit the high-altitude stage as runners climbed 6,500 feet above sea level wearing just shorts and t-shirts at around 1pm.
“The wind is too strong – our thermal blankets have been torn to bits,” a runner wrote in the group messages, according to Reuters. “A few are unconscious and are foaming at the mouth,” another posted.
Local authorities immediately authorized an emergency response that sent more than 1,200 rescuers to find the missing athletes amid mudslides and flooding.