15 die in Germany stampede

Saturday, July 24, 2010

DUISBURG - At least 15 people died and 80 were injured Saturday when revellers at the Love Parade music festival in the German city of Duisburg set off a stampede in an access tunnel, police said.

The stampede occurred at 1500 GMT as the final act of the day was beginning at the festival, which up to 1.4 million people were attending, according to local media.

Witnesses told of how ever more people, some drunk, attempted to get into the festival grounds by walking through a tunnel that led under a motorway and up to the former goods railway station where the massive party was taking place.

Nine women and six men died when the crowd in the tunnel panicked, with some being trampled to death, police and media reports said.

A police press conference in the city confirmed that at least 80 people had been injured. Police said that 10 people were resuscitated at the scene by emergency workers.

The Love Parade, one of the world’s largest electronic music events, had been founded in Berlin in 1989 as a peace parade shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

German President Christian Wulff said “such a catastrophe causing death, suffering and pain during a peaceful festival of joyful young people from many countries is terrible.”

The president called for a full and immediate investigation of the incident.

The exact cause of the accident is not yet clear, although witnesses said that police had been informed of the dangerous build-up of people shortly before the fatal crush occurred.

“We were standing in the middle of it. More and more people were trying to get to the grounds. We were almost through the tunnel and were standing at the entrance, but (the crowd) went no further,” 21-year-old Fabio told DPA.

“We went back through the tunnel, and my girlfriend and I could scarcely breathe. We had to use our elbows to get through. We told the police that it would soon come to a mass panic,” he said.

Video footage from the crush showed people clambering over fences and up concrete walls to escape from the over-filled tunnel.

Even as emergency services attempted to reach the accident site, barring an adjacent motorway to land helicopters, the party continued. Organisers feared that a further wave of people trying to exit the event would create a second, possibly uncontrollable panic.

DJs played and the crowd continued to dance, seemingly unaware of the dozens of ambulances pouring into the accident site.

DJ Dr Motte, the founder of the Love Parade event - which has since been spun off to numerous cities around the world - said that the Duisburg organisers were to blame for the crush.

Unconfirmed reports suggested that only one tunnel exit was available for the hundreds of thousands of people wanting to access the main stage of the event on the railway yard grounds.

“They have made a huge management mistake. How can they let people go through only one tunnel to the grounds? It’s a scandal,” Dr Motte said.

By 1900 GMT, media reports said that tens of thousands of people were leaving the event and attempting to travel via the Duisburg train station.

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