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Chinese official found dead amid probe into fatal ultramarathon

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Rescue workers carry a stretcher as they work at the site where extreme cold weather killed participants of an 100-km ultramarathon race in Baiyin, Gansu province, China May 22, 2021. Picture taken May 22, 2021. cnsphoto via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

A top official from the Chinese county that hosted a fatal ultramarathon last month has been found dead, authorities said Friday, as 27 people face punishment over the incident.

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In May, extreme weather at an ultramarathon in northwestern Gansu province killed 21 runners when freezing rain, high winds and hail hit competitors.

The deadly incident sparked calls for more regulation and raised questions over why organisers had apparently ignored the incoming weather.

On Friday, provincial authorities told a press conference that the Communist Party secretary of Jingtai county — which hosted the event — had been found dead.

Li Zuobi was confirmed to have died after falling from the building where he lived. Police received the incident report on Wednesday, and have since ruled out homicide.

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27 people, including municipal government officials, face criminal charges or disciplinary actions over the deadly ultramarathon.

Among those punished include the party secretary and mayor of Baiyin city — which holds jurisdiction over Jingtai — as well as the magistrate of the county, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Last month’s incident also led to a suspension of sports competitions that lacked national safety standards, including events such as mountain trail running and ultra-long distance running.

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