0508 GMT December 10, 2022
The extreme weather struck a high-altitude section of the race held in the scenic Yellow River Stone Forest near Baiyin city in northwestern Gansu Province Saturday afternoon, according to AFP.
Among the dead were elite Chinese long-distance runners, local media reported.
Official news agency Xinhua confirmed the death toll had risen to 21, citing the local rescue command headquarters. State broadcaster CCTV also reported the final missing competitor had been found dead.
Baiyin Mayor Zhang Xuchen said that at around midday Saturday a section of the rugged ultramarathon course – between kilometers 20 and 31 – was "suddenly affected by disastrous weather".
"In a short period of time, hailstones and ice rain suddenly fell in the local area, and there were strong winds. The temperature sharply dropped," Zhang said.
Shortly after receiving messages seeking help from some participants, marathon organizers dispatched a rescue team that managed to save 18 of the 172 participants.
At around 2 p.m., weather conditions worsened and the race was immediately called off as local authorities sent more rescuers to help, Zhang said.
The victims included top domestic marathon runners Liang Jing and Huang Guanjun, local media reported, citing a friend of Huang's and Wei Pulong, Liang's coach. Liang had won multiple Chinese ultramarathons in recent years.
Huang, who was deaf-mute, won the men's hearing-impaired marathon at the 2019 National Paralympic Games held in Tianjin. Marathon organizers confirmed his death to a friend, who was cited in local media.
The race, backed by the Baiyin city government and the Chinese Athletic Association, has been held for four successive years.