The half-marathon in Tel Aviv ended in tragedy on Friday when one of the runners, a man in his early 30s, collapsed due to heat stroke and died. Medical crews on hand tried resuscitating him, but to no avail. More than 50 runners were taken to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center after suffering from heat stroke, dehydration and other minor injuries. Twelve runners were listed to be in critical condition and have been in medically induced comas and are on respirators.
Magen David Adom emergency service spokepserson Zaki Heller said the runner collapsed shortly after completing the race.
The municipality decided to stop the event early.
Last week the Health Ministry instructed the municipality to end the event by 8:30 a.m. due to the heavy heat. The municipality did start the event earlier, but it apparently wasn't enough. The city postponed the full marathon, 42.2 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards), by a week because of the warnings.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai expressed his sorrow at the tragic outcome, but said that "despite the heavy heat wave, it would have been wrong to cancel the race." Huldai said the municipality acted according to the Health Ministry's and Sourasky Medical Center's guidelines. He added that U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Israel next week made it impossible to postpone the half-marathon and 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) runs held Friday.
"The writing was on the wall. It's not clear why the decision to run the half-marathon in this heat was even made," health expert Professor Motti Ravid told Army Radio.
"Twenty kilometers in this type of heat is enough to kill; I don't understand Huldai shirking his responsibility — if running is not possible, then there should be no running," Ravid said.
The countrywide heat wave, which led to temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tel Aviv on Friday morning, was expected to break on Saturday.
Some 35,000 participants gathered at the Chares Clore beach promenade for the 5:45 a.m. launch of the half-marathon race, divided into seven legs, with around 150,000 more people looking on in support.
After the half-marathon began, other runners participated in the shorter 10 kilometer race.