- Written by David Willis and Kathryn Armstrong
- BBC News, Burning Man in Nevada and London
Organizers have given the green light to large numbers of revelers to leave the Burning Man Festival in the US after the weather improved.
They said people could start leaving at noon local time (19:00 GMT) but suggested a delay until Tuesday to prevent “a great deal of congestion”.
Heavy rain turned the event in the Nevada desert into a mud bath. About 72,000 people were stranded.
Organizers also said the death of a man on Friday was unrelated to the weather.
They added that emergency services were called to help the man, who was said to be around 40 years old, but could not be resuscitated. The local sheriff’s office said earlier that it was conducting an investigation.
In an update released Monday morning local time, organizers also said they’d postponed the traditional end of the event – the burning of an effigy – to Monday evening.
“Consider postponing your departure…until Tuesday,” they said. “This will relieve significant amounts of congestion throughout the day.”
The rainstorm that hit the Black Rock Desert near the end of last week is believed to have been the longest and heaviest since the festival began more than 30 years ago.
Martina Sawa, a dancer who was booked to perform at the event, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she was surprised by how bad the conditions were.
“It was a really strange experience,” she said.
The revelers, who are expected to be largely self-sufficient as part of the festival’s spirit, were told to take shelter and conserve food, fuel and water.
But bad weather meant that the use of the portable latrines was temporarily halted, because service vehicles could not drive through the mud to empty them.
“We were initially told that we wouldn’t be able to leave until Tuesday, but the people who actually had to leave managed to leave,” Ms. Sawa said.
While many remained at the site, some chose to walk 5 miles (8 km) through the mud to the nearest road. Event organizers have arranged buses to take people off the road to nearby Reno, but some people say they had to pay for rides or move out of the area.
Organizers said the trip was not guaranteed and urged people not to take County Route 34.
Other revelers have taken the muddy conditions in their stride, dancing in the mud and throwing karaoke parties.
“I’m having a good time,” Jazz Corona told the BBC.
But by Sunday, the sense of exhilaration had been replaced by a growing air of discontent, with people increasingly eager to leave.
Faye, a Burning Man participant who lives in London, told the BBC she had been left “covered in mud for the last three days”.
“There are no bathrooms here,” she said. “The only thing you can do is wash yourself with baby wipes inside your tent.”
The unusual rainstorm came at the end of the nine-day festival, when the biggest crowds arrived to watch the grand finale – the burning of the giant wooden effigy.
It was scheduled to take place on Sunday but was pushed back by one day. Several other festival events had to be cancelled, including the Ms. Sawa event.
Even before Burning Man officially began on August 27, the city was battered by the remnants of Hurricane Hillary, prompting organizers to close the gates to arrivals early.
Burning Man is one of the most popular arts and cultural events in America, where visitors create a makeshift city in the middle of the desert.
It was founded in June 1986 and was first held in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada in 1990.
Tickets can be very difficult to come by, and sometimes festival-goers are interviewed to enter the grassroots camp and have to prove their commitment to its ideals.
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