Queues of cars and vans line up in the desert as thousands are finally able to flee
Thousands of partygoers stranded in the desert have finally found a way home after muddy roads flooded by a summer storm started to dry up.
Tens of thousands of attendees at the Burning Man counterculture festival in Nevada, the US, were told to “conserve food and water” after a slow-moving rainstorm caused “treacherous” conditions over the weekend.
The remote area was hit with two-three months’ worth of rain (up to 0.8 inches) in just 24 hours between Friday and Saturday morning.
But on Monday, event organisers said they started to let traffic flow out of the main road around 2pm local time – even as they continued urging attendees to delay their exit to help ease traffic.
Drone footage shows the extent of the problem as thousands were stuck in the desert
About two hours after the mass departure began, organisers estimated a wait time of about five hours.
Organisers also asked attendees not to walk out of the Black Rock Desert about 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Reno as others had done throughout the weekend, including celebrity DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock, but they didn’t specify why.
The road closures came just before the first of two ceremonial fires signalling an end to the festival was scheduled to begin Saturday night.
The event traditionally culminates with the burning of a large wooden effigy shaped like a man and a wood temple structure during the final two nights, but the fires were postponed as authorities worked to reopen exit routes.
Police also said they are investigating one reported death at the event, but it is not believed to be weather-related.
President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he was aware of the situation at Burning Man, including the death, and the White House was in touch with local authorities.
The annual gathering, which launched on a San Francisco beach in 1986, attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists for a mix of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances.