At least 16 runners dead as extreme weather hits China cross-country race: report
Ambulances arrive at Haneda airport in Tokyo to meet the second charter flight evacuating Japanese citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan (AFP Photo/STR)

At least 16 people were killed and five more are missing after extreme weather hit runners taking part in a 100km cross-country mountain race in China, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday (May 23).

"Extreme weather hit the area during the race" being held in the Yellow River Stone Forest near Baiyin City in northwestern Gansu province, Xinhua said.

"As of 3am on Sunday, 16 people were found dead and the rescue of the five missing people is under way.

"The race has been halted," the agency said.

The People's Daily newspaper gave a slightly different toll of 15 dead with six still missing.

It tweeted that an additional 151 runners were "safely evacuated" from the "downpours".

Gansu, one of China's poorest regions, borders Mongolia to the north and Xinjiang to the west.

Yellow River Stone Forest is famous for its rugged mountain scenery marked by stone stalagmites and pillars, and is used as a location in many Chinese television shows and movies, according to the China Daily.

Its rock formations are believed to be four billion years old, the Daily said.