RENO, Nev. –
Authorities in Nevada were investigating a death at the site of the Burning Man festival where thousands of attendees remained stranded Saturday night as flooding from storms swept through the Nevada desert.
Organizers closed vehicular access to the counterculture festival and attendees trudged through mud, many barefoot or wearing plastic bags on their feet. The revellers were urged to shelter in place and conserve food, water and other supplies.
The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said the death happened during the event but offered few details as the investigation continued, including the identity of the deceased person or the suspected cause of death, KNSD-TV reported.
Vehicle gates will not open for the remainder of the event, which began on Aug. 27 and was scheduled to end Monday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the Black Rock Desert where the festival is being held.
More than one-half inch of rain is believed to have fallen on Friday at the festival site, located about 110 miles (177 kilometres) north of Reno, the National Weather Service in Reno said. At least another quarter of an inch of rain is expected Sunday.
The Reno Gazette Journal reported organizers started rationing ice sales and that all vehicle traffic at the sprawling festival grounds had been stopped, leaving portable toilets unable to be serviced.
Officials haven’t yet said when the entrance is expected to be opened again, and it wasn’t immediately known when celebrants could leave the grounds.
The announcements came just before the culminating moment for the annual event — when a large wooden effigy was to be burned Saturday night.
Messages left Saturday afternoon by The Associated Press for both the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, the agencies that closed the entrance, weren’t immediately returned.
Many people played beer pong, danced and splashed in standing water, the Gazette Journal said. Mike Jed, a festivalgoer, and fellow campers made a bucket toilet so people didn’t have to trudge as often through the mud to reach the portable toilets.
“If it really turns into a disaster, well, no one is going to have sympathy for us,” Jed said. “I mean, it’s Burning Man.”