UPDATE: Furious Love Parade survivors slam organizers
DUISBURG, Germany (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Angry survivors demanded answers on Sunday and prosecutors launched an inquiry after a panicked stampede at a techno music festival in Germany killed 19 people and left hundreds hurt.
The German-born Pope Benedict XVI and Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed their horror over Saturday’s catastrophe in the western city of Duisburg, as the German leader called for a “very intensive investigation”.
“This was a very, very dreadful and sad day,” Merkel said. “We must do everything we can to ensure that something like this never happens again.”
Deputy police chief Detlef von Schmeling said the victims, the youngest 20 and the oldest 40, were killed as they scrambled to escape from a narrow tunnel that was the only entrance to the Love Parade festival.
“Fourteen people died on the metal steps leading away from the tunnel, two on a wall outside,” he said.
Police said the dead included seven foreigners, from Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, China, Bosnia and Spain. More than 340 people were injured.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW
DUISBURG, Germany (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Germany mourned Sunday the deaths of 19 people killed in the Love Parade stampede as survivors raised questions over the safety of the narrow entrance tunnel to the giant rave.
Hundreds of thousands of people danced on at the event in the western city of Duisburg on Saturday, oblivious to the carnage at the tunnel, the only entrance to the one-day festival which drew 1.4 million ravers.
Police updated the death toll to 19 people and said 340 were injured as fresh accounts emerged of the “unimaginable” scenes that unfolded as thousands who piled into the tunnel became caught in a crush.
“I saw dead people in the tunnel, others alive but unconscious on the ground. Others were crying,” said Anneke Kuypers, an 18-year-old from New Zealand.
Survivors described a scene of unimaginable horror as television pictures showed the unconscious and the dead being passed over heads of those frantically trying to escape.
“As I have lifeguard experience, I tried to help for a while. People were suffering from dehydration, some from drug or alcohol overdoses. It was crazy,” said Kuypers as she tried to locate missing friends.
Nevertheless, her experience did not stop her from taking part. “I finally went to the festival, because I wanted to let up,” she told AFP.
Most revelers remained unaware of the incident and kept on dancing as authorities kept a lid on the news to avoid further panic, a decision which angered some survivors on Sunday.
“What’s crazy is that the party carried on. That’s just not right. People kept on dancing even though they might have had friends who had died,” said 31-year-old Lubbert from Hanover.
“At the end, the organizers even said ‘thank you for a great day’.”
But shock turned quickly to anger as partygoers criticized organizers for only allowing one entrance through the tunnel to the festival.
Patrick Guenter, a 22-year-old baker, said: “The organization was very bad. Quickly there was nothing to drink apart from alcohol and although the festival was full, they kept letting people in.”
“It seems the organizers didn’t plan the route. The road was very narrow,” added Taggart Bowen-Gaddy, 20, an American from Philadelphia.
“There was no planning, no one knew what was going on,” he added.
Duisburg mayor Adolf Sauerland vowed to hold a comprehensive inquiry, and defended what he said was a “solid security plan” worked out in advance.
“The investigations that have already been launched must uncover the precise course of events,” he said.
Another raver who gave his name as Alexis from the western city of Wuppertal said he was in the tunnel leading to the showground where many were killed in the stampede.
“There were just too many fences. Everywhere it was just far too narrow. Several girls collapsed because of the heat. Totally crazy,” said the 28-year-old.
Media reports said the festival grounds were only big enough to contain around 250,000 people, while around six times that number turned up.
Panicked friends and family sent a raft of messages on Twitter in a bid to locate missing partygoers.
A 27-year-old Australian woman from New South Wales was among the dead, the foreign ministry in Canberra said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “aghast” at the catastrophe.
“Young people came to party. Instead, there was death and injury. I am aghast and saddened by the sorrow and the pain,” she said in a statement.
Focus magazine quoted the founder of the Love Parade, who goes by the name of Dr Motte (Dr Moth), as saying: “The organizers are to blame … they showed not the slightest responsibility for people.”
The influential mass circulation Bild asked on its website: “Why did the police let people carry on the party?”
However, one 31-year-old man, who gave his name as Patrick, feared that the tragedy could spell the end for the annual Love Parade, one of Europe’s biggest techno dance parties.
“I’ve been to six or seven Love Parades and this is the worst. It’s probably also the last because no city will dare to organize it after this,” he said.