By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
DUISBURG/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Officials in western Germany say at least 19 people have been killed and 80 injured in a stampede at the famed Love Parade techno music festival in the German city of Duisburg. The annual event is meant to celebrate music, love and peace.
Rescue workers competed for attention with nearby electronic music. “Please make the road free” a man shouted through a loudspeaker as his team tried to reach a scene of carnage.
Officials said the deaths and injuries occured when panic broke out among huge crowds in a roughly 600 meter long tunnel leading towards the day-long open air Love Parade festival in the German city of Duisburg.
Soon after the incident, television footage showed rescue workers and others trying to attend to victims.
At the same time, a line of revelers filed slowly away from the scene.
LUCKY TO BE ALIVE
A young German man told reporters he was lucky to be alive after he witnessed the stampede. “There was so much pressure on the crowd that nobody could do anything,” he said. “People soon had fallen to the ground and had been trampled underfoot. Injured and dead people were laying on the floor”. He said, “Women panicked. There was hysteria among the people.”
Organizers said 1.5 million people had been expected to turn out for what was meant to be a joyous celebration of dance culture and techno music. That is three times more than the entire population of host city Duisburg which is located near the larger city of Duesseldorf.
Duisburg security official Wolfgang Rabe suggested to media that the huge crowds made it difficult to break up the festival, following the deadly stampede. “Considering all the security aspects, the crisis staff of the city decided not to immediately end the festival,” a visibly upset Rabe explained. He said the city wanted “this event to end calmly to avoid even more panic.”
By late Saturday, July 24, crowds could still be seen in Duisburg with organizers struggling to arrange transport for everyone.
German president Christian Wulff said in a statement that “Such a catastrophe that has caused death, sorrow and pain during a peaceful festival involving young people from many countries, is dreadful.”
GERMAN CHANCELLOR’S “DIFFICULT HOURS”
And, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that in these difficult hours her thoughts were with the relatives of the victims. German born Pope Benedict XVI said he is “praying for the victims” in comments monitored by BosNewsLife.
Witnesses have already criticized what they perceived as a lack of police and other security personnel on the scene.
It was the worst accident of its kind in Europe since July, 2000 when nine people suffocated in a crush at the Roskilde music festival in Denmark.
Germany’s Love Parade, which was first held in Berlin in 1989, is one of Europe’s biggest techno festivals, featuring world-renowned disc jockey’s onstage with large crowds dancing and moving to the music.