“They are just encouraging people to wait until the roads are less muddy, since they can’t really get cars unstuck. Food and water supplies are fine… Burners are very keen on helping each other in any kind of crisis.” (Regular attendees to the festival adopt the “burner” moniker.)
Other Australians who have taken to social media to post about the muddy playa include former Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan, who remained positive about the conditions despite patchy internet connections.
“We are safe, we have food and ‘dryish’ shelter. It is very moist here and forecast is for more rain over the next few days… fingers and toes crossed for some sunshine to clear things up,” she posted on Instagram.
Organisers on Sunday evening, Nevada time, said conditions were improving and they planned to reopen roads for people to leave on Monday, adding that a decision would be made at 9am.
“The Burning Man organisation’s advice is for participants to delay their departures to avoid getting stuck in the mud, but people are free to leave should they choose to do so,” the website states.
The festival began in 1986 and is best known for its concluding event, in which a giant, humanesque sculpture is set alight. The effigy this year is said to weigh more than 1 tonne.
Burning Man attracts tens of thousands of people each year, from ordinary partygoers and emerging artists, DJs and performers, to celebrities and influencers.
Central to the ethos of the event is a number of principles attendees must observe, including that people borrow, gift and trade instead of exchanging money. Along with a “leave no trace” policy, this creates a self-sustaining community that is dismantled at the end of the event.
However, given large the swathes of people left on foot because they were unwilling to persist through the muddy conditions, there are concerns about multiple camp sites, rubbish and waste being left behind.
Festival attendee David Date said many who had abandoned the festival had left makeshit camps behind.
“We’ve experienced hardships in the past. The one thing that is unique this time is that we have this influx of ‘tech bros’ and Instagram models and European and Australian tourists, and they’re ditching their camps, leaving tons [of waste] all over the playa,” he told Nine’s Today show. (Nine owns this masthead.)
“This could threaten the existence of this event. So, right now we’re trying to figure out how to you clean up other people’s mess.”
Burning Man routinely faces criticism for the environmental impact of creating a temporary city for tens of thousands of people. This year, a small group of climate protesters caused gridlock by blocking the road with a trailer and calling for an end to the annual desert party.
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