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Investigation launched into death at Burning Man, with thousands still stranded in Nevada desert after flooding

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One person died at the Burning Man festival this weekend as a severe bout of rain caused flooding in the remote Nevada desert where the event was being held, authorities said. This comes as tens of thousands of attendees remained stranded Sunday. 

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it is investigating the death in a news release issued Saturday, and said the family has been notified both of the death and the active probe. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told CBS News on Sunday that the death occurred during the extreme rain that swept through parts of northwestern Nevada on Friday and Saturday, but not because of it. The earlier news release noted that the office “is currently investigating a death which occurred during this rain event.” 

Echoing the release, the spokesperson declined to share additional information about the death or circumstances surrounding it because the sheriff’s investigation was still ongoing.

burning man festival flooding
Tents between puddles and mud on the grounds of the “Burning Man” festival on Sept. 3, 2023, in the Nevada desert. Tens of thousands of visitors to the desert festival were stranded due to heavy rainfall. 

David Crane/picture alliance via Getty Images


The White House said Sunday that President Biden had been briefed on the flooding and “administration officials are monitoring the situation and are in touch with state and local officials.”

Officials urged Burning Man attendees to shelter in place on Saturday and Sunday after storms soaked the Black Rock Desert, a dried lake bed now composed of alkali flats that sits in a remote and arid section of northwestern Nevada, about 150 miles from Reno. The Burning Man entrance was shut down Saturday and would remain closed for the remainder of the event, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office tweeted. Anyone attempting to travel to the area would be turned around. 

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office noted Saturday that festival operations were being “halted or significantly delayed…due to unusual weather conditions on the playa.”

Roads in and out of the festival remained closed Sunday evening, and festival organizers urged attendees to conserve food, water and fuel. Cell phone equipment was also brought in to help those stuck in flooded campsites.  

burning man flooding
Camps are set on a muddy desert plain on Sept. 2, 2023, after heavy rains turned the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada’s Black Rock desert into a mud pit. 

JULIE JAMMOT/AFP via Getty Images


About 73,000 people were stranded at Burning Man when the head count was tallied Saturday, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told CBS News. Some attendees were reportedly seen trudging through the muddy desert in efforts to leave the festival on foot, according to the Associated Press.

The organizers of Burning Man said in a statement Saturday night that people who decide to walk out of the desert would be provided bus transportation to Reno from Gerlach, which is about 15 miles from the site of Black Rock City. 

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

“We have done table-top drills for events like this. We are engaged full-time on all aspects of safety and looking ahead to our Exodus as our next priority,” the statement continued. Exodus is how Burning Man refers to the end of the festival, when all attendees leave the desert.

“The Burning Man organization’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,” organizers said. 

On the Burning Man website, organizers said they were hoping to reopen roads by 9 a.m. local time Monday. 

“It was really, really wet and really, really slick,” stranded attendee Justin Schuman told CBS News of the muddy conditions in a video interview Sunday from his campsite. “But it’s also very alkaline. So you do have to be careful for no prolonged exposure of your skin to the mud because, apparently it can actually start to really, gently burn your skin.”

Schuman said he and his friends had enough supplies to make it through a few more days. 

“We are not allowed out of the playa, the gates are locked, we have enough tuna for a week,” said Christine Lee, a circus performer, on social media.

The area serves as the annual locale for Burning Man, a weeklong event that typically draws tens of thousands of people “to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance,” according to a passage in the “about” section on the festival’s website. Event organizers require attendees “to bring all you need to survive” to the desert, including food, water and shelter, which can be shared.

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

Burning Man
In this satellite photo provided by Maxar Technologies, an overview of Burning Man festival in Black Rock, Nevada, on Aug. 28, 2023. 

Maxar Technologies via AP


The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office was coordinating with several agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and Burning Man Org, to assist attendees sheltering in place at the event site. The sheriff’s office spokesperson told CBS News on Sunday that “they are all working together to try to get everybody out of there safely,” at least in part using vehicles with four-wheel drive. It was unclear whether other transportation methods were being used too.

“There had been mild to heavy rain for several hours, causing conditions that made it virtually impossible for motorized vehicles to traverse the playa,” the sheriff’s office said in Saturday’s news release, adding that it supports Burning Man’s decision to order attendees to shelter in place and noting, “There is more rain forecast for the next few days which could cause further delays and disruptions for participants attempting to leave the Festival as well as other operations within the Festival.” 

In addition to small groups of people who were able to walk off the event site and were “awaiting transport” arranged by Burning Man at the time the release was issued, the office said “some vehicles have been able to drive off the playa, however, those vehicles have caused damage to the playa surface, and it is not recommended at this time.”





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From the archives: Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer

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From the archives: Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer – CBS News


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Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the radio/TV host and bestselling author who had an impact on millions with her frank talk on sex, died Friday, July 12, 2024 at age 96. In this profile from correspondent Martha Teichner that originally aired on “CBS Sunday Morning” on February 17, 2002, Westheimer talked about championing sexual literacy, having fun being “Dr. Ruth,” and what she was looking for in a companion.

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7/13: Saturday Morning – CBS News

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7/13: Saturday Morning – CBS News


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President Biden returns to campaign trail in battleground states as pressure mounts to withdraw; World Series of Poker has drawn a record number of entrants.

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Son of Asia’s richest man gets married in the year’s most extravagant wedding

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The youngest son of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, married his longtime girlfriend early Saturday in what many dubbed the wedding of the year, attended by global celebrities, business tycoons and politicians, highlighting the billionaire’s staggering wealth and rising clout.

The wedding rituals, including exchanging garlands by the couple and walking around the sacred fire, began Friday and were completed past midnight.

The celebrations of Anant Ambani marrying Radhika Merchant took place at the Ambani-owned Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai and the family home. The marriage culminated months of wedding events that featured performances by pop stars including Rihanna and Justin Bieber.

Guests Attend The Lagna Vidhi Of The Wedding Of Anant Ambani & Radhika Merchant
(L-R) Akash Ambani, Shloka Mehta, Mukesh Ambani, Nita Ambani, Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal Attend The Lagna Vidhi Of The Wedding Of Anant Ambani(R) & Radhika Merchant on July 12, 2024 in Mumbai, India.

Prodip Guha / Getty Images


Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended a reception organized by the Ambanis on Saturday evening.

The Ambanis hosted a “blessing ceremony” for friends and family members to meet the couple and wish them a happy married life.

India Today television news channel reported that the newlyweds touched Modi’s feet as a show of respect and sought his blessings.

Four days of wedding celebrations

The four-day wedding celebrations began Friday with the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony and will be followed by a grand reception to run through the weekend. The guest list includes former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Boris Johnson; John Kerry, the former U.S. special envoy for climate, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin H. Nasser; and Adele, Lana Del Rey, Drake and David Beckham, according to local media. The Ambani family did not confirm the guest list.

Television news channels showed the arrivals of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who was dressed in red, and professional wrestler and Hollywood actor John Cena.

Kardashian sisters Kim and Khloé took a ride in a motorized rickshaw through bustling Mumbai streets Friday before joining the wedding ceremonies, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

kards.jpg
Kim and Khloe Kardashians shared photos and videos on social media ahead of the wedding of Anant Ambani.

Kim Kardashian


International guests wore traditional clothes by major Indian fashion designers. They put on embroidered sherwanis – long-sleeved outer coats worn by men in South Asia. Cena came in a sky-blue sherwani and white pants. Nick Jonas wore a pink sherwani and white pants.

Bollywood icons Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor attended the wedding and danced to popular Hindi movie songs. Indian cricketers, including icons Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav, were among the invitees.

Police imposed traffic diversions around the wedding venue from Friday to Monday to handle the influx of guests who flew to Mumbai, where heavy monsoon rains have caused flooding and flight disruptions for the past week.

The extravaganza and the display of opulence that comes with the wedding have led many to raise questions about rising inequality in India, where the gap between rich and poor is growing. The event has also sparked anger among some Mumbai residents, who say they are struggling with snarled traffic.

“It affects our earnings. I don’t care much about the wedding,” said Vikram, a taxi driver who uses only one name.

Asia’s richest man

The father of the groom, Mukesh Ambani, is the world’s ninth-richest man, with a net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes. He is the richest person in Asia. His Reliance Industries is a conglomerate reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests that include petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecoms and retail.

The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story family compound in Mumbai worth $1 billion. The building contains three helipads, a 160-car garage and a private movie theater.

The groom, 29-year-old Anant, oversees the conglomerate’s renewable and green energy expansion. He also runs a 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) animal rescue center in Gujarat state’s Jamnagar, the family’s hometown.

The bride, Radhika Merchant, also 29, is the daughter of pharmaceutical tycoon Viren Merchant and is the marketing director for his company, Encore Healthcare, according to Vogue.

Ambani’s critics say his company has relied on political connections during Congress Party-led governments in the 1970s and ’80s, and under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014.

The Ambani family’s pre-wedding celebrations have been lavish and star-studded from the start.

Wedding Ceremony Of Anant Ambani And Radhika Merchant
Ambani Family during the Wedding ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant at the Jio World Convention Centre, BKC on July 12, 2024 in Mumbai, India.

Raju Shinde/Hindustan Times via Getty Images


In March, they threw a three-day prenuptial bash for Anant that had 1,200 guests, including former world leaders, tech tycoons and Bollywood megastars, and performances by Rihanna, Akon and Diljit Dosanjh, a Punjabi singer who shot to international fame when he performed at Coachella. The event was also attended by tech billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

It was the start of lavish, months-long pre-wedding celebrations that grabbed headlines and set off a social media frenzy.

In May, the family took guests on a three-day cruise from Italy to France, which included Katy Perry singing her hit song “Firework” and a performance by Pitbull, according to media reports.

The family also organized a mass wedding for more than 50 underprivileged couples on July 2 as part of the celebrations.

Last week, Justin Bieber performed for hundreds of guests at a pre-wedding concert that included performances by Bollywood stars Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh and Salman Khan.

Ambani also made headlines in 2018, when Beyoncé performed at pre-wedding festivities for his daughter. Former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.



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