Dakar first stage canceled due to rain

Sun Jan 3, 2016 6:08pm EST
 
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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The opening stage of the Dakar Rally in Argentina was canceled due to bad weather on Sunday, a day after the prologue had to be abandoned when a car crashed into the crowd and injured eight spectators.

Race director Etienne Lavigne said helicopters needed to guarantee the safety of participants had been unable to fly due to thunderstorms that broke over the stage from Rosario to Villa Carlos Paz.

The competing cars, trucks, motorcycle and quad bikes were making their way to the end of the stage under controlled conditions.

The annual Dakar Rally, which started out as a grueling endurance race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital Dakar, has been held in South America since 2009 for security reasons.

This year's event starts and ends in Argentina with an incursion into Bolivia after Peru pulled out due to forecasts for the El Nino weather pattern that has caused flooding and landslides in the past.

The prologue had to be stopped when a Mini Cooper driven by China's Guo Meiling careered off the road at Arrecifes near Rosario and hit spectators, injuring eight including three children and a pregnant woman.

Four medical helicopters and eight local ambulances were deployed to take the injured to hospitals in the area.

A statement from the hospital in Arrecifes on Sunday said two people, a father and son, remained in critical condition.

(Reporting by Luis Ampuero in Buenos Aires, writing by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)

 
Aerial view of the Dakar Rally 2016 camp in Carlos Paz, Argentina, January 3, 2016.  REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci