Tens of thousands of revellers at the Burning Man festival have been told to shelter in place and conserve food and water after a heavy storm flooded the area and left attendees stranded in disastrous conditions. About 70,000 people were effectively trapped and could not leave the event after a rainstorm pummelled the desert playground and turned it into a swampy mud pit. Local authorities said they were investigating a death that occurred at the site during the storm on Saturday.
Organisers warned that the gate and airport into Black Rock City, the remote area of north-west Nevada where the event is held, was closed and no driving would be allowed in and out of the area except for emergency vehicles. “Do not travel to Black Rock City! Access to the city is closed for the remainder of the event, and you will be turned around,” the organisers said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“If you are in BRC (Black Rock City) please shelter in place and stay safe … Check on your campmates and neighbours to make sure they’re OK, and help them as needed. Take advantage of a moment of calm to connect with campmates and hunker down.” Social media photos and videos also painted a disaster zone, with partygoers trying to make their way through muddy outdoor dance floors, while stages and campsites were soaking wet, with dark clouds on the horizon.
About 15 centimetres of rain is believed to have fallen on Friday (US time) at the festival site and more heavy rains are expected late Saturday into Sunday. Burning Man is a counterculture festival that began in 1986 and is best known for its concluding event, in which a giant, humanesque sculpture is set alight. The event attracts tens of thousands of people each year, from ordinary partygoers and emerging artists, DJs and performers, to celebrities and influencers.
To take part, attendees create a fleeting, self-sustaining community that is dismantled at the end of the event. Part of the Burning Man experience is to borrow, barter and trade instead of exchanging money. According to its website, more than 60,000 people travel to and from the city along a two-lane highway to attend the festival. The schedule began on August 27 and was due to end on Monday.
The muddy morass at Burning Man is reminiscent of the scenes at Australia’s Splendour In the Grass festival last year when organisers were forced to cancel the first day of acts after non-stop rainy weather along the NSW coast created hazardous conditions. Fans had been looking forward to the return of the Splendour three-day festival, which featured international acts like Liam Gallagher, Gorillaz, and The Strokes after a two-year hiatus during the global pandemic.