Ultra-big emergency

All competitors and officials involved in yesterday’s Southern Lakes Ultra are accounted for, after severe weather and river conditions prompted a mass emergency response.

Eight people were taken to hospital suffering mild hypothermia, rescued from spots around the course near Macetown after the first personal locator beacon was activated about 1am.

Another eight activations followed and by early yesterday afternoon, that number increased to 10.

Seven of those picked up are athletes and one is a race official.

A collaboration between Wellington’s Rescue Coordination Centre, emergency services and rescue helicopters and race organisers meant every person involved was accounted for before 3pm yesterday, a Maritime NZ statement says.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) Queenstown-Lakes assistant commander Nic McQuillan, of Queenstown, says Fenz had been notified yesterday morning there may have been up to 100 people trapped at Macetown with the river flooding, but information was “vague”.

‘‘It took a lot of work for us to get the detail,” McQuillan says.

“None of us had any information to start.

‘‘Initially, we just didn’t know if there was a problem or where the problem was … so it was just basically establishing all that communication, connecting with the right people from the right organisations, and figuring it all out and then come up with a plan and get the information so we knew whether it was real or not.’’

Ground crews made contact with about 90 who didn’t need rescuing — most were safe at the Macetown Camp area by 3pm.

Race volunteer and coordinator Emily Sutton said yesterday afternoon all athletes were safe.

‘‘I am in great communication with multiple organisations and agencies and at this stage all athletes are safe, well and accounted for.

‘‘Some runners have been evacuated out of the mountains, and they are being cared for by crew and staff at Queenstown’s Lakes [District] Hospital.’’

She added family members of athletes were contacted directly if there was any concern, and the athletes’ health and wellbeing was a top priority.

About 125 runners signed up for the event, organised by Queenstowner Kerryn Bell.

Of those, about 60% are from overseas — mainly from Australia but also the United Kingdom, United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Hong Kong.

● Pick up a copy of today’s Otago Daily Times for more

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