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Olivia Stock
4 September 2023, 14:27

Over 70,000 people stranded at Burning Man due to severe flooding

Attendees were urged to “shelter in place” and conserve food, water and fuel amidst water-logged conditions

Photo of Black Rock City, Nevada from above

More than 70,000 people have been stranded at Burning Man festival in Nevada this past weekend after heavy rainfall turned the ground into a swamp.

The muddy conditions prompted the closure of the route in and out of Black Rock City, the temporary community built annually for the festival, while revellers left stuck on site were urged to “shelter in place” and conserve food, water and fuel.

The area is said to have experienced around two to three months’ worth of rain, up to 0.8 inches in just 24 hours between Friday and Saturday morning. The downpours turned the dry desert floor into thick mud, making it difficult for vehicles and festivalgoers to manoeuvre across the site. Some revellers continued to party on the Sunday despite torrential conditions, while others walked 5 miles (8km) to the nearest main road in order to hitchhike.

The severe rain and flooding also meant the annual Man Burn – a ceremonial burning of a wooden totem at the festival’s culmination – did not happen on Sunday night as had been planned. After being postponed twice, according to a social media account affiliated with The Burning Man Project, it is now scheduled for Monday night at 9pm (GMT).

The police are also investigating the death of one person at the festival. While details were initially scarce, Burning Man organisers gave an update on Sunday saying that the death of the unnamed man, 40, was “unrelated to the weather.” The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the death, The Independent reports.

With sunny weather expected to return after the weekend’s downpour, organisers say they are ready for a mass exodus from Monday morning, local time. As per recent images from the festival site shared by the BBC, the ground appears dry enough now for vehicles to drive without getting stuck, and revellers have been able to start slowly leaving.

Burning Man also faced controversy last week after a group of anti-capitalist climate change activists blocked the main route into the festival. Members of climate activist coalition Seven Circles displayed signs that read “Burners of the world, unite!”, "Abolish capitalism” and “General strike for climate”, with some protestors chaining themselves to the trailer. 

“The purpose of the blockade is to draw attention to capitalism’s inability to address climate and ecological breakdown”, Seven Circles said in a press statement. "The blockade is also in protest against the popularization of Burning Man among affluent people who do not live the stated values of Burning Man, resulting in the commodification of the event.”

Burning Man was first held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 1990, after being founded four years earlier as a festival of art, radical self-expression and community spirit. There are no headline acts or organised performances, instead, participants (‘burners’) build and run art projects and events themselves.