What is Burning Man? All you need to know about the festival and floods | News

About 70,000 people remain stuck in mud as rare desert rain poured down in parts of the US’s northwestern state of Nevada.

An unusual late-summer storm turned a weeklong counterculture fest into a sloppy mess with about 70,000 partygoers still stuck in deep mud as water and food supplies dwindle, with no working toilets in the northern Nevada desert.

Here is what to know:

What is Burning Man?

Burning Man is a festival described as “a global ecosystem of artists, makers, and community organisers who co-create art, events, and local initiatives around the world”.

The festival gets its name from its culminating event, the burning of a large wooden structure called “the Man” on the penultimate night. It aims to be an undefinable event, somewhere between a celebration of counterculture and a spiritual retreat.

During the event, “Burners” typically arrive in groups and set up themed “camps”, ready to contribute to the festival’s “gift economy” philosophy by providing goods or services without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

The event has been held since 1986.

This year, it was scheduled to run from August 27 until September 4, and a regular ticket cost $575. However, CNBC reported the experience could cost about $1,500 with lodging, travel, food, and costumes.

In this satellite photo provided by Maxar Technologies, an overview of Burning Man festival in Black Rock
An overview of the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada [Maxar Technologies via AP]

Where is the Burning Man festival happening?

The festival is held in Black Rock City, a temporary community created in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada.

Its location is far from big cities and about 141 miles (227km) north of Reno.

What went wrong this year?

More than 13mm (0.5 inches) of rain fell at the festival site on Friday, disrupting the celebration.

For the Reno area, the average rainfall for the whole month of September would be 5.4mm (0.21 inches), said Mark Deutschendorf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

“Already, everywhere from Reno up to the Burning Man area, Black Rock, we’ve already exceeded that – and it’s only three days into the month,” he added.

Road closures were imposed just before a giant wooden effigy was supposed to have been burned on Saturday night. Organisers said all burning had been postponed, and authorities were working to open exit routes by the end of the Labor Day weekend.

Organisers closed the festival to vehicles after one death was reported. Officials provided no details of the death. An investigation is under way.

Black Rock City - Nevada

How are people getting out?

With their party closed to motorised traffic, attendees trudged through mud, many barefoot or with plastic bags on their feet. Revellers were urged to conserve supplies of food and water, and most remained hunkered down at the site.

A few, however, managed to walk out to the nearest town or catch a ride there.

Celebrity DJ Diplo posted a video to Instagram on Saturday showing him and comedian Chris Rock riding in the back of a fan’s pick-up truck. He said they walked 6 miles (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.

What happened to those stranded?

Those who remain described a resilient community making the most of the mucky conditions. Many posted selfies covered in mud, dancing or splashing in the makeshift lakes.

“We have not witnessed any negativity, any rough times,” organiser Theresa Galeani said.

What happens next?

On the website, organisers said conditions were improving on Sunday but the roads out remained “too wet and muddy”.

However, “they will be opening for exodus on Monday morning. We will inform the community as soon as we make the decision by 9am [16:00 GMT],” it added.

View of the muddy terrain during the Burning Man event at the temporary desert settlement of Black Rock City, Nevada
The muddy terrain during the Burning Man event at the temporary desert settlement of Black Rock City, Nevada [File: Reuters]

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