The inaugural Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, a two-week music event promoted by celebrities including supermodels Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, was postponed Friday after attendees reported dilapidated accommodations, and top-billed performers pulled out.
The Coachella-like festival, set to run this weekend and next weekend on the Exuma Islands, was co-organized by rapper Ja Rule.
A promotional video for the Fyre Festival appears to promise paradise: outdoor concerts, yachts and jet skis streaking across lagoons with crystal-clear water, while young, beautiful models smile indistinctly at the camera.
Attendees were promised concerts featuring Blink-182, Major Lazer and more, treasure hunts for more than $1 million US in jewelry, and other prizes scattered across the island, as well as a feast of luxurious and exotic cuisine.
Tickets started at several hundred dollars and went up to $12,000.
Instead, hundreds compared the site to a battleground from The Hunger Games, and were housed in "disaster relief tents" and served bread and cheese in Styrofoam containers.
Posts on social media paint a scene of confusion and anger. Photos depict attendees' luggage being dumped into shipping containers for storage, lockers without locks — all set against beaten, dusty grounds instead of postcard-friendly beaches.
So Fyre Fest is a complete disaster. Mass chaos. No organization. No one knows where to go. There are no villas, just a disaster tent city. pic.twitter.com/1lSWtnk7cA— @WNFIV
Blink-182 tweeted Thursday it would be pulling out of the event.
"We're not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give our fans," the band said in a statement.
Organizers said on the festival website and via social media channels Friday that the event was "being postponed" and "due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfil on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests."
The festival said staff was focusing on getting everyone off the island.
'Pretty catastrophic,' says tourism ministry
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism said Friday it was "extremely disappointed" by the opening days of the festival, and offered "a heartfelt apology to all who travelled to our country for this event."
"From our point of view, it's been pretty catastrophic. And we are really disappointed in the way the events unfolded yesterday," Joy Jibrilu, the ministry's director general, told CBC News.
She recounted reports she heard that when attendees arrived, many of the tents were not yet prepared and a "free-for-all scramble" for the tents that were ready ensued.
Jibrilu and the ministry didn't become aware of the festival until advertisements, like the video above, made the rounds on social media. She said organizers usually reach out to the ministry, which has hosted other major events such as the recent FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, from "day 1."
According to Jibrilu, the Fyre Festival organizers were unaware that they had to apply for the appropriate permits to hold the event even though it was to take place on privately owned grounds.
The ministry, which is not an official sponsor of the festival, sent a team of over 30 people Friday morning to work with event organizers, airlines and charter companies to ensure attendees safely return home.
"It was a crisis situation, so the government has to step in and ensure the safety of every visitor," said Jibrilu. "It's our reputation [on the line.]"
'NOT A SCAM' says Ja Rule
Ja Rule weighed in on the situation Friday afternoon, posting on Twitter that he was "heartbroken" by reports from the festival.
"We are working right now on getting everyone off the island SAFE that is my immediate concern," Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, tweeted.
"I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT, but I'm taking responsibility," he continued.
Uncertainties about the event were swirling since before the first attendees touched down in the Bahamas. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in April that organizers failed to pay performers previously agreed advance payments for their appearances, and that concierge teams were stingy on logistical details for attendees.