Stranded festivalgoers and shelter-in-place: What’s going on at Burning Man?

Stranded festivalgoers and shelter-in-place: What’s going on at Burning Man?

Key Points
  • Burning Man festival attendees are stranded in the remote Nevada desert after the site was flooded by heavy rain.
  • Festival organisers have closed off access due to safety concerns and advised attendees to shelter in place.
  • US media has reported up to 70,000 people are stranded in the temporary city.

Nevada authorities said they were investigating one death after a severe rainstorm left tens of thousands of revellers attending the annual Burning Man festival stranded in mud, and asked that they shelter in place and conserve food and water.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office in northern Nevada said in a statement that the death happened during a “rain event” on Saturday but did not provide details of the cause of death or the person’s identity.

“The family has been notified and the death is under investigation,” the sheriff’s office said.

Access to and from Black Rock City, the event site about 180 km north of Reno, was closed “for the remainder of the event,” organisers said in a statement on social media.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office said the entrance to Burning Man had been closed due to flooding and anyone trying to get in “will be turned away.”

Here’s what we know.

What is Burning Man?

Burning Man originated as a small function in 1986 on a San Francisco beach, but more than 60,000 participants now travel to and from the remote area in northwest Nevada every year.

Attendees gather in Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to “community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance”, according to its website.

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The festival gets its name from its culminating event, the burning of a large wooden structure called the Man on the penultimate night. The fire will be attempted on Sunday night, organisers said.

Why are attendees being asked to shelter in place?

Festivalgoers were reportedly asked to shelter in place after a rainstorm turned the site into mud.

Photos and videos on social media show attendees trudging through thick mud and dirty water, with some facilities out of use and many events cancelled.

Access to and from Black Rock City, the event’s site, was closed “for the remainder of the event”, organisers said in a statement on social media.

“Rain over the last 24 hours has created a situation that required a full stop of vehicle movement on the playa,” the US Bureau of Land Management said in a statement.

“More rain is expected over the next few days and conditions are not expected to improve enough to allow vehicles to enter the playa.”

On 2 September at 7pm local time, organisers assured visitors they were “well prepared” for a weather event like this.

According to the website, all Burns are postponed and there is not yet an estimated time for roads to be dry enough for vehicles to navigate safely.

Some decided to leave the site early, walking approximately 8 km through the mud to the nearest highway, where the organisers were offering shuttle buses to Reno. People were advised not to walk at night.

No details were available on how many had decided to leave. Attendee Paul Reder told Reuters on Sunday that he knew of a few who had trudged out to the highway or defied officials and driven out. Those that remained were helping each other out by sharing food and water, he said.

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“Everyone here seems in really good spirits,” said Reder, who has been going to the event for 22 years.

“There’s a general sense that this is going to end soon, the gates will open and we’ll all be on our way home.”

DJ Diplo posted a video to Instagram on Saturday evening showing him and comedian Chris Rock riding in the back of a fan’s ute. He said they had walked nearly 10km through the mud before hitching a ride.

“I legit walked the side of the road for hours with my thumb out,” wrote Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz.

The gathering originated as a small function in 1986 on a San Francisco beach and is now also attended by celebrities and social media influencers.

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