Thousands of Burning Man festival-goers stranded after heavy rains, told to conserve water and food

Worsening conditions have left tens of thousands sheltering in place at the annual Burning Man festival with a growing risk of hypothermia and food poisoning as at least one death is already being investigated.

The yearly gathering in northwest Nevada to revel in debauchery and light up the night sky with burning effigies was brought to a halt after serious rainfall left access on and off the Playa impassable. Adding to the already harrowing conditions for many ill-prepared partiers, reports had forecasted even more rainfall Saturday night into Sunday morning.

While some videos posted on social media showed attendees making the most of the sodden situation with continued partying, others from the estimated more than 70,000 reported by NBC News could be seen with makeshift gear or barefoot, layered up and trampling through mud restricting travel to and from the campsites.

According to the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, “Most Festival operations have been halted or significantly delayed.”

“Some vehicles have been able to drive off the Playa, however, those vehicles have caused damage to the Playa surface, and it is not recommended at this time,” the authorities noted. “There is more rain forecast for the next few days which could cause further delays and disruptions for participants attempting to leave the Festival as well as other operations within the Festival.”

They further reported that at least one death was being investigated, though scant details were provided, “As this death is still under investigation, there is no further information at this time.”

The sodden conditions also meant that services to supply fresh food and water were limited and matters of hygiene related illnesses were compounding serious risks from exposure to the elements. Speaking anonymously to Insider over reported job-related restrictions, a Los Angeles-based physician spoke to concerns of food poisoning, hypothermia and stomach bugs.

“If it rains again, which is going to prevent people from being able to use their vehicles for another three to four days, people are gonna get stranded there,” the physician said, “and there’s gonna be a resource crunch. The port-a-potties are probably going to start overflowing, and that’s gonna mix with the mud and the rain, and it’s going to possibly spread infectious diseases.”

“As the days go on, and people realize that they’re not going to have enough water to do dishes with, there’s going to be a lot more sanitation issues and hygiene issues,” the individual told Insider. “And so I think people may start getting a little bit more desperate, and we may start seeing people getting sick if they don’t find a way of getting out of there fast.”

Meanwhile, as event organizers updated their virtual survival guide with the details on emergency responders and the need to conserve resources for the duration of the shelter in place advisory, many were opting to abandon belongings they could not carry and trek the five miles through the mud where they could find provided transportation to Reno.

Among those opting to flee were music producer and DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock who were seen sharing a ride after making the hike.

For those departing, Pershing County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Nathan J. Carmichael did note, “I don’t know if they’re going to be able to come back or not. A lot of them are leaving their campers and saying they’ll come back in a couple days.”

It remained to be seen what decisions authorities might make based on additional rain.


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