Four runners in ultramarathon injured by wildfires

Last Updated: Sep 03, 2011, 09:46 AM IST

Perth: Four runners taking part in a three-day, 100-kilometer (62-mile) international ultramarathon have suffered serious burns after being trapped in a gorge by a wildfire in Western Australia state`s Kimberley tourist region.

Royal Flying Doctor Service spokesperson Joanne Hill said on Saturday that two women, believed to be from the eastern states of Australia and aged 36 and 24, were in critical condition at Darwin Hospital after suffering burns over 60 to 80 percent of their bodies.

She said two men, aged in their 40s and 50s, had less serious burns following the Friday afternoon incident. Hill said the men`s nationalities would attempt to be determined once they were flown from the race area to a Perth hospital.

The race, which was scheduled to end Sunday, was later canceled.

On Saturday, organizers posted a message on the race`s Facebook page to say the families of those burned in the incident had been informed.

"Our thoughts are with the Kimberley Ultramarathon competitors who were burned yesterday in the bush fires," it said. "All participants involved in the event are off of the course and safe. We regret that we cannot provide more details at this time, but family members of those affected have been contacted."

The ultramarathon was part of the Racing the Planet Series and organizers said last month that it would attract 100 competitors from 30 countries. Its route covered outback areas between Kununurra, one of the three largest towns in the region, and the Gibb River Road to El Questro Wilderness Park.

"Understandably, there are a lot of people concerned about the welfare of those who were taking part in the race," Hill said. "The runners had no way out once the fire entered the gorge and they became trapped."

The Kimberley region is one of Australia`s top international and domestic tourist destinations. It features steep mountain ranges and sandstone and limestone gorges bordered on the west by the Indian Ocean.

Bureau Report