4 confirmed dead while crossing Lop Nur desert
One vehicle, carrying four passengers, of a convoy was reported missing last Wednesday while crossing the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The nine-vehicle convoy set out from Dunhuang in northwest China's Gansu Province on July 22, and one vehicle lost contact with the rest of the convoy on Wednesday.
A rescue team found the vehicle and three passengers without vital signs on Thursday, according to a statement from the Ruoqiang Police.
Three of the four passengers were confirmed dead by the local police from Ruoqiang County in Xinjiang on Friday.
The last passenger of the missing vehicle was found and confirmed dead on Saturday.
The convoy planned to take a 470-kilometer route on the reserve and only had two days' worth of food and fuel, according to an individual with knowledge of the plan in the same WeChat group as the rest of the convoy.
One of the vehicles ran out of gas and broke down, and one leader of the convoy and three others had to double back to find rescue, carrying little water or resources. However, their vehicle became stuck in sand on their way back and the four passengers had to walk.
The extreme surface temperature of the reserve can be as high as 70 degrees Celsius during the summer, which made walking under the scorching sun almost impossible.
One of the rescue team members described the scene when the missing passengers were found and said they had died of dehydration and were barely recognizable.
Visitors are not permitted to go into the wild camel nature reserve without authorization, for the protection of the camels, which are on the verge of extinction and are usually very timid and afraid of human beings, said a staff member with Ruoqiang County.
The locals do not go into the wild camel nature reserve for fear of disturbing the camels and contaminating their natural habitat.
The camel reserve has issued multiple notices since 2017 prohibiting any groups, companies, and individuals from carrying out exploration and trips into the reserve. If found, they may face punishments such as being fined or given criminal sanctions.
Luo Yi, an experienced outdoor activities expert, crossed the wild camel reserve within one day with his son in 2014.
The dangers of the Lop Nur, where the reserve is located, come mainly from sandstorms, which can make travelers lose their way, and quicksand that makes vehicles break down.
There are also no cellular signals in the desert, so travelers are better to carry a satellite phone. If a vehicle breaks down in Lop Nur, it is advised to find shelter from the sun as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could easily die from dehydration, Luo said.