Death investigated at Burning Man festival as revellers stranded by floods

Authorities are investigating a death at the site of the Burning Man festival in Nevada where thousands of attendees remain stranded after flooding from storms swept through the desert.

Organisers closed vehicle access to the counter-culture festival on Saturday and revellers were left to trudge through mud, many barefoot or wearing plastic bags on their feet, after being urged to shelter in place and conserve food, water and other supplies.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said the death happened during the event but offered few details, including the identity of the deceased person or the suspected cause of death.

On their website, organisers encouraged participants to remain calm and suggested the festival is built to endure conditions like the flooding. They said mobile phone trailers were being dropped in several locations on Saturday night and they would be briefly opening up internet overnight.

Burning Man site
It is not known when vehicles will be allowed to enter or leave the site (Maxar Technologies/AP)

Shuttle buses were also being organised to take attendees to Reno from the nearest town of Gerlach, a walk of about five miles from the site.

“Burning Man is a community of people who are prepared to support one another. We have come here knowing this is a place where we bring everything we need to survive,” the organisers said in a statement.

“It is because of this that we are all well-prepared for a weather event like this.”

Celebrity DJ Diplo posted a video to Instagram on Saturday evening showing him and comedian Chris Rock riding in the back of a fan’s pickup truck.

He said they walked six miles 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.

Vehicle gates will be closed for the remainder of the event, which began on August 27 and was scheduled to end on Monday, according to the US Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the Black Rock Desert where the festival is being held.

More than half an inch of rain is believed to have fallen on Friday at the festival site, located about 110 miles north of Reno, the National Weather Service said. At least another quarter of an inch of rain is expected on Sunday.

The Reno Gazette Journal reported that organisers started rationing ice sales and that all vehicle traffic at the sprawling festival grounds had been stopped, leaving portable toilets unable to be serviced.

Officials said late on Saturday that the entrance to the event remained closed, and it was not immediately known when celebrants could leave the grounds.

No driving is allowed except for emergency vehicles and organisers said they did not have a time yet when the roads would “be dry enough for RVs or vehicles to navigate safely”.

But if weather conditions improve, they were hopeful vehicles could depart by late Monday.

The announcements came just before the culminating moment for the annual event — when a large wooden effigy was to be burned on Saturday night.

John Asselin, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, urged people still heading to the festival to go home so the roads could remain for emergency and other vehicles. He said he has seen “a steady stream” of vehicles leaving the festival site.

“People are getting out,” he said.

Many people played beer pong, danced and splashed in standing water, the Gazette Journal said.

Mike Jed, a festival-goer, and fellow campers made a bucket toilet so people did not have to trudge as often through the mud to reach the portable toilets.

“If it really turns into a disaster, well, no one is going to have sympathy for us,” Mr Jed said.

“I mean, it’s Burning Man.”