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Burning Man Disaster Leaves More Than 70,000 Stranded In The Nevada Desert

Floods, deaths and thousands stranded.

Every year, thousands of people descend on Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for nine days of music, creativity and partying—but this year, everything went wrong. 

More than 70,000 festival attendees have been left stranded in the desert after a heavy storm flooded the grounds. Images show the usually colourful, art-filled environment as a wasteland, strewn with rubbish, flooded tents and ankle-deep mounds of ‘sticky mud’. 

But that’s not all—authorities also say they’re investigating a death that’s occurred at the event. 

So what happened? We explain below.

The flooded Burning Man festival grounds. (Credit: Getty)

What Happened At Burning Man 2023? 

The festival disaster started with a storm—and not just any storm. The remote area was hit with two to three months worth of rain in just 24 hours. When the heavy rain hit the dry desert earth, it created a thick, ‘sticky’ mud with a clay like consistency that’s difficult to walk through. 

Attendees were told to shelter in place and to conserve food, water and fuel until the storm passes. 

Unfortunately, that won’t be a possibility until at least Monday, according to Bureau of Land Management, who said that “more rain is expected over the next few days and conditions are not expected to improve enough to allow vehicles to enter the playa.”

At this stage, the gate and airport into Black Rock City (a city temporarily erected for the festival) are closed, and no driving is allowed into or out of the city. 

Organisers have warned attendees about driving out of the grounds, saying in a statement, “it will hamper Exodus if we have cars stuck on roads in our camping areas, or on the Gate Road out of the city. If you are in BRC, please shelter in place & stay safe.”

Images show thousands stranded in the mud. (Credit: Getty)

For those stuck at the festival, it hasn’t been easy. 

Australian singer Casey Donovan, who is currently at the festival, gave an update on Instagram. 

“Have been rained into the Playa here at Burning Man,” Donovan wrote on Instagram.

“Good thing is, we are safe, we have food and ‘dryish’ shelter. It is very moist here and the forecast is for more rain over the next few days… fingers and toes crossed for some sunshine to clear things up.”

Comedian Chris Rock and DJ Diplo recounted their adventure out of the event, when Diplo posted on social media. 

“I legit walked the side of the road for hours with my thumb out because I have a show tonight and didn’t want to let ya’ll down.” 

The post-apocalyptic-like images and dire accounts of the festival have led to comparisons between this year’s Burning Man and the infamous Fyre Festival, as well as last year’s Splendour In The Grass mud chaos

Burning Man 2023. (Credit: Getty)

Has Someone Died At Burning Man? 

Authorities are currently investigating a death that has occurred during the storm. The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has reported the death but has not provided any additional details regarding the circumstances. 

Emergency resources and assistance have been deployed at the event, with four-wheel drive vehicles ferrying medical supplies, and buses assisting people attempting to walk. 

The Burning Man organisers have also released a statement on their website about the current situation. 

“Burning Man is a community of people who are prepared to support one another. We have come here knowing this is a place where we bring everything we need to survive. It is because of this that we are all well-prepared for a weather event like this.
“We have done table-top drills for events like this,” organisers said. “We are engaged full-time on all aspects of safety and looking ahead to our exodus as our next priority.”
We’ll keep you updated on the situation. 

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