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Ja Rule ‘heartbroken’ after Fyre Festival descends into disaster

The organisers of a luxury music festival in the Bahamas have apologised after the event descended into chaos, drawing comparisons to The Hunger Games and The Lord of The Flies.

Fyre Festival, on the private Great Exumas island, had been billed as a “cultural moment” for monied millennials, with tickets costing up to $12,780 for a four-person package. It was heavily promoted on Instagram as an opportunity to mingle with models and “influencers”, including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski.

The event was due to feature performances from Blink-182, Skepta and Rae Sremmurd, and run over two weekends from 28 April. One of the organisers, rapper Ja Rule, reportedly toasted during a site visit: “To living like movie stars, partying like rock stars, and fucking like porn stars.”

But after headliners Blink-182 pulled out on Friday citing poor infrastructure, ticket holders arrived on Great Exumas island to chaotic scenes.

blink-182 (@blink182)

pic.twitter.com/lMjXQSMPqC

April 27, 2017

Posts to social media drew comparisons to a refugee camp, with “disaster relief tents” being used as cabanas in expanses of mud, mountains of rubbish, and low-quality sandwiches.

Patrons were left stranded on the island, with #fyrefestival trending on Twitter as they begged to be evacuated and others delighted in schadenfreude.

(@Iron_Spike)

The "catering" (which cost extra) was a slice of untoasted bread, two slices prepackaged cheese, and a side salad. pic.twitter.com/BoKxWAMI5i

April 28, 2017 Iron Spike (@LamaanGallal)

Stuck at #fyrefestival trying to leave for the last 8 hours. barley any food or water or security or electricity pic.twitter.com/jHPMnJw5gx

April 28, 2017 Lamaan (@LamaanGallal)

We have been locked indoors with no air NO FOOD and NO water #fyrefestival #fyrefest fyrefraud pic.twitter.com/wg5pZmSvnx

April 28, 2017 Lamaan

In a statement, organisers cited “circumstances out of our control” for their inability to prepare the “physical infrastructure” for the event in the largely undeveloped private island.

They were working to arrange charter flights to Miami for people already on Exumas while inbound flights had been cancelled.

The Bahamas ministry of tourism released a statement on Twitter, expressing disappointment that “hundreds of visitors to Exuma were met with total disorganisation and chaos”.

Though the ministry was not an official sponsor of Fyre Festival, it said it had offered advice and support to the organisers, who had assured them it was in hand. “But clearly they did not have the capacity to execute an event of this scale,” the ministry said.

A team of ministry representatives were on the island to assist with the safe return of all visitors.

Ja Rule wrote on Twitter that he was “heartbroken” by the way the event unfolded and that it was “NOT A SCAM”: “I don’t know how everything went so left but I’m working to make it right.”

Ja Rule (@Ruleyork)

pic.twitter.com/KuJYxfsQJ4

April 28, 2017

A talent producer hired to work on the festival suggested that it was beset by problems from the outset.

“When we arrived, my initial reaction was ‘huh’,” wrote Chloe Gordon in New York Magazine. “This was not a model-filled private cay that was owned by Pablo Escobar. This was a development lot covered in gravel with a few tractors scattered around.”

“We were standing on an empty gravel pit and no one had any idea how we were going to build a festival village from scratch.”

Ja Rule’s partner, co-organiser Billy McFarland, told Rolling Stone that Friday was “the toughest day of my life”. He admitted being overly “ambitious”.

“We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves. Next year, we will definitely start earlier.”

There would be another event, held in the US in May, free for ticketholders that would “keep the theme of being on water and beach” and be “not just music, but all forms of entertainment”. He clarified that “we will not try to do it ourselves”.