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First Dakar Rally stage cancelled due to weather

More bad news for the 2016 Dakar Rally. One day after an accident in the prologue left spectators seriously wounded, the first official stage of the race was cancelled because of weather conditions.

Organizers were forced to pull the plug on stage one of the 2016 Dakar Rally after thunderstorms and torrential rain hit the 600-kilometer route from Rosario to Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina. Race director Etienne Lavigne said that the extreme weather created a problem for the aircraft crucial to the safety of the event.

"The Dakar doesn't stop when it rains but when it's not possible to guarantee the normal security presence," Lavigne told AFP news agency. "The weather conditions are very bad. The relay plane was unable to fly. Helicopters can't take off. The situation isn't going to improve in terms of visibility."

The Dakar rally had been scheduled to cover more than 9,300 kilometers across Argentina and Bolivia. The field will now travel to Cordoba under link-section conditions.

On Saturday, the prologue to the race was immediately halted after a crash involving the Mini of Chinese driver Guo Meiling injured 10 people, including a ten-year-old boy. Lavigne said the boy's condition had stabilized but that another victim had taken a turn for the worse, with doctors offering a "guarded prognosis."

The Dakar rally, widely considered the world's toughest automobile race, has been held in South America since 2009 due to concerns about terrorism.

jc/jh (afp/sid)

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