All marathon competitors accounted for

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The Independent Online

All 2,500 marathon competitors stranded overnight in mountains by floods were accounted for by organisers, police said today.

The majority of the entrants camped overnight in the Lake District when the Original Mountain Marathon two-day race was abandoned yesterday after nearly a month's rain fell in the area in 24 hours.

More than 1,700 people were officially unaccounted overnight for but that number fell to just 44 and then 14 as a helicopter from RAF Valley in Anglesey assisted police and mountain rescue teams in the search in Keswick.

A Cumbria Police spokesman said: "I can confirm that the race organisers have informed us that everyone of the competitors has now been accounted for."

"Cumbria Constabulary and partner agencies worked overnight to support competitors stranded in the Lake District after the event was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.

"Authorities are currently working to reunite competitors with their vehicles.

"The B5289 between Seathwaite and Keswick is now passable with care. Police are still working to ascertain which other local roads are open.

"Police would urge competitors to phone home to let friends and family know they are safe and well."

Cumbria County Council has opened a reception centre in Keswick to help people who are having difficulty with their homeward journeys.

A council spokesman added most racers had now been helped back to their vehicles.

The SleepMonsters adventure racing website, which filed live reports from the marathon, said most of the roads in the area were "passable with care".

A posting by Rob Howard said: "By this morning most of the floods had subsided, roads were open and passable with care and the competitors were making their way back to Seathwaite.

"The logistical exercise of getting the cars off the parking field was mostly complete by lunchtime, with tractors towing and teams of racers pushing vehicles out."

One of the first rescuers on the scene yesterday claimed the race could have turned the mountains into a "morgue".

The owner of Honister Slate Mine, Mark Weir, and his staff helped bus runners to safety down the Honister Pass and also provided overnight shelter.

Mr Weir, 42, of Loweswater, said: ""We have come within inches of turning the Lake District mountains into a morgue. We need to learn from it.

"On a good day, this place is heaven on earth. In extreme freak weather like this, it is hell. We need to give serious thought to a dedicated mountain centre for England being based here."

"Only then can we properly illustrate how extreme conditions can be and what people can do if they are caught out. This incident has proved beyond doubt that people can survive in the worst conditions imaginable but they need to know what they are doing.

"If nothing is done no-one learns anything and incidents like this will continue to happen."