Categories
Uncategorized

21 Ultra-Marathon Runners Die In Extreme Weather In China


BEIJING (AP) — Twenty-one people running a mountain ultramarathon have died in northwestern China after hail, freezing rain and gale-force winds hit the high-altitude race, state media reported Sunday.

After an all-night rescue operation in freezing temperatures involving more than 700 personnel, rescuers were able to confirm that 151 people were safe, out of a total of 172 participants. Twenty-one had died, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, which said the runners suffered from physical discomfort and the sudden drop in temperature.

The runners were racing on an extremely narrow mountain path at an altitude reaching 6,500-9,800 feet. The 60-mile race was held Saturday in the Yellow River Stone Forest tourist site in Baiyin city in Gansu province.

Participants were not rookies. One of the deceased was a well-known runner Liang Jing, who had won a 62-mile race in Ningbo, reported the Paper, a state-backed newspaper based in Shanghai.

A woman who worked for the race organizer, Gansu Shengjing Sports Culture Development Co., said there were no predictions of extreme weather for the day of the race, according to Beijing News, a paper owned by the Beijing city government.

However, Baiyin city’s local branch of the National Early Warning Information Center had warned for the past three days of hail and strong winds.

The race also followed a relatively established course, having been held four times, according to an account posted online by a participant in the race who quit and managed to make his way to safety.

But the weather caught them off guard, and on the morning of the race Saturday, he already sensed things were not normal. The runners were not dressed for winter-like conditions, many wearing short-sleeved tops.

“I ran 2 kilometers before the starting gun fired to warm up … but the troublesome thing was, after running these 2 kilometers, my body still had not heated up,” the competitor said in a first-person account that has been viewed more than 100,000 times on his WeChat account “Wandering about the South.”

He later told the Paper that the forecast the day prior to the race did not predict the extreme weather they encountered.

Rescuers walk into the accident site to search for survivors in Jingtai County of Baiyin City, northwest China's Gansu Provin



Rescuers walk into the accident site to search for survivors in Jingtai County of Baiyin City, northwest China’s Gansu Province, May 23, 2021. (Photo by Fan Peishen/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The most difficult section, from mile 15 to mile 22, climbed 3,280 feet. There, he said the path was just a mix of stones and sand, and his fingers grew numb from the cold.

When he finally decided to turn back, he already felt dazed. He said he was able to make it to safety and met a rescue crew. He did not respond to a request for comment left on his social media account.

Some runners farther along the course had fallen off the trail into deep mountain crevices, according to a reporter for state broadcaster CCTV. It was not clear how many of them survived.

Video footage showed rescuers in winter jackets in the pitch-dark night searching with flashlights along steep hills and narrow paths. Search operations ended by noon Sunday, rescuers told Xinhua.

Online, some wondered what, if any preparations organizers had made in the event of an emergency. The race organizer did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Sunday.

Baiyin city Mayor Zhang Xuchen held a news conference later Sunday and profoundly apologized as the organizer of the event. The government promised a full investigation.

“We express deep condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and the injured,” the mayor said.

Associated Press writer Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan and news researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.





Source link

Categories
Uncategorized

China Lands Spacecraft On Mars In Historic First For Nation



ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING — China landed a spacecraft on Mars for the first time on Saturday, a technically challenging feat more difficult than a moon landing, in the latest advance for its ambitious goals in space.

Plans call for a rover to stay in the lander for a few days of diagnostic tests before rolling down a ramp to explore an icy area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia. It will join an American rover that arrived at the red planet in February.

China’s first Mars landing follows its launch last month of the main section of what will be a permanent space station and a mission that brought back rocks from the moon late last year.

“China has left a footprint on Mars for the first time, an important step for our country’s space exploration,” the official Xinhua News Agency said in announcing the landing on one of its social media accounts.

The U.S. has had nine successful landings on Mars since 1976. The Soviet Union landed on the planet in 1971, but the mission failed after the craft stopped transmitting information soon after touchdown.

A rover and a tiny helicopter from the American landing in February are currently exploring Mars. NASA expects the rover to collect its first sample in July for return to Earth in a decade.

China has landed on the moon before but landing on Mars is a much more difficult undertaking. Spacecraft must use shields for protection from the searing heat of reentry and both retro-rockets and parachutes to slow enough to prevent a crash landing. The parachutes and rockets must be deployed at precise times to land at the designated spot. Only mini-retro rockets are required for a moon landing, and parachutes alone are sufficient for returning to Earth.

Xinhua said the entry capsule entered the Mars atmosphere at an altitude of 125 kilometers (80 miles), initiating what it called “the riskiest phase of the whole mission.”

A 200 square meter (2,150 square foot) parachute was deployed and later jettisoned, and then a retro-rocket was fired to slow the speed of the craft to almost zero, Xinhua said. The craft hovered about 100 meters (330 feet) above the surface to identify obstacles before touching down on four buffer legs.

“Each step had only one chance, and the actions were closely linked. If there had been any flaw, the landing would have failed,” said Geng Yan, an official at the China National Space Administration, according to Xinhua.

Touchdown was at 7:18 a.m. Beijing time (7:18 p.m. EDT), according to the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The distance between Earth and Mars caused a delay for mission control in Beijing to confirm its success.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a congratulatory letter to the mission team, called the landing “an important step in our country’s interplanetary exploration journey, realizing the leap from Earth-moon to the planetary system and leaving the mark of the Chinese on Mars for the first time … The motherland and people will always remember your outstanding feats!”

NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted his congratulations, saying, “Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet.”

China’s Mars landing was the top trending topic on Weibo, a leading social media platform, as people expressed both excitement and pride.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since February, when it arrived after a 6 1/2-month journey from Earth. Xinhua described the mission as China’s first planetary exploration.

The rover, named after the Chinese god of fire Zhurong, is expected to be deployed for 90 days to search for evidence of life. About the size of a small car, it has ground-penetrating radar, a laser, and sensors to gauge the atmosphere and magnetic sphere.

China’s space program has proceeded in a more cautious manner than the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the height of their space race.

The launch of the main module for its space station in April is the first of 11 planned missions to build and provision the station and send up a three-person crew by the end of next year. While successful, the uncontrolled return to Earth of the launch rocket drew international criticism including from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

China has said it wants to land people on the moon and possibly build a scientific base there. No timeline has been released for such projects. A space plane is also reportedly under development.

Associated Press researcher Henry Hou, news assistant Caroline Chen and video journalist Sam McNeil contributed to this report.



Source link