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Burning Man revelers begin exodus from festival after road reopens
Organisers of the event in the Nevada desert have asked people to stagger their exits after thousands were stranded over the weekend
Burning Man festivalgoers began their slow exodus from the campsite in the northern Nevada desert after muddy roads that left tens of thousands of people stranded for days dried up enough to make travel possible.
Festival organisers said they started to let traffic flow out of the main road about 2pm local time (2200 BST) on Monday – even as they continued to ask revelers to delay their exit to Tuesday to ease traffic. As of Monday afternoon, they said about 64,000 people remained at the festival site.
Organisers also asked them not walk out of the Black Rock desert as some others had done throughout the weekend.
The festival had been closed to vehicles after more than a half inch (1.3cm) of rain fell on Friday, causing flooding and foot-deep mud.
The road closures came just before the first of two ceremonial fires signaling 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 by the end of the Labor Day weekend.
Weather permitting, “the Man” was scheduled to be torched at 9pm on Monday, while the temple is set to go up in flames at 8pm on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service said it would stay mostly clear and dry at the festival site, although some light rain showers could pass through on Tuesday morning. The event began on 27 August and had been scheduled to end on Monday morning.
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. Disruptions are part of the event’s recent history: dust storms forced organisers to temporarily close entrances to the festival in 2018, and the event was twice canceled altogether during the pandemic.
At least one fatality had been reported at this year’s event, but organisers said the death of a man in his 40s was not weather-related. The sheriff of nearby Pershing County said he was investigating but had not identified the man or a cause of death.
The event is remote on the best of days and emphasises self-sufficiency. Amid the flooding, revelers were urged to conserve their food and water, and most remained hunkered down at the site.
Cindy Bishop and three of her friends managed to drive their rented RV out of the festival at dawn on Monday when, Bishop said, the main road was not being guarded.
She said they were happy to make it out after driving toward the exit – and getting stuck several times – over the course of two days.
But Bishop, who traveled from Boston for her second Burning Man, said spirits were still high at the festival when they had left. Most people she spoke with said they planned to stay for the ceremonial burns.
“The spirit in there,” she said, “was really like, ‘We’re going to take care of each other and make the best of it’”.
Rebecca Barger, a photographer from Philadelphia, arrived at her first Burning Man on 26 August and was determined to stick it out through to the end.
“Everyone has just adapted, sharing RVs for sleeping, offering food and coffee,” Barger said. “I danced in foot-deep clay for hours to incredible DJs.”
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