x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Outcry at Love Parade stampede deaths

Authorities search for clues as to the cause of a sudden stampede that kills 19 people, as its organiser says the Parade will never be held again.


Authorities were searching for clues today as to what sparked a sudden stampede at the Love Parade dance party in Duisburg, western Germany that killed at least 19 people. At least 340 people were injured as the crush occurred in or around a tunnel leading to the day-long open air festival, attended, officials said, by 1.4 million revellers. The exact causes of the disaster were unclear at the event, which attracts thousands from all around the world. The organiser of the Love Parade has said the yearly techno music festival will never be held again. Rainer Schaller said it's "over for the Love Parade." Four foreigners are among the 19 victims of the stampede, police said. The dead included an Australian woman, an Italian woman, a Dutch man and a Chinese man, the local police chief Detlef von Schmeling told a news conference. Only 16 of the 19 people crushed to death in the stampede have been identified, Chief Von Schmeling said. Those identified were aged between 20 and 40, he said. Police initially said the crush happened in the tunnel itself but an official from Duisburg, a city of 500,000 just north of Duesseldorf, said others also died on steps leading towards it. Most revellers remained unaware of the incident and continued dancing and listening to the music long afterwards as authorities kept a lid on the news to avoid another panic.

Witnesses said the horrific scenes were "unimaginable". One young female partygoer told Die Welt daily: "Everywhere you looked, there were people with blue faces." "My boyfriend pulled me out over the bodies, otherwise we would both have died in there. How can I ever forget those faces. The faces of the dead." Another witness told the NTV rolling news channel that several people had fallen to the ground and had been trampled underfoot.

"Some people were on the ground while others were climbing up the walls," said the witness, Udo Sandhoefer. Police officers and security officials tried to get into the tunnel "but it was already too full," he added. "People kept trying to get into the tunnel for about 10 minutes, then realised what had happened and turned around," he said. Another 18-year-old witness named Marius told the Bild daily: "There was no way of escaping. There was a wall of people in front of me. I was scared I was going to die."

Panicked friends and family sent a raft of messages on Twitter in a bid to locate missing partygoers. Shock turned quickly to anger as partygoers criticised organisers for only allowing one entrance through the tunnel to the festival. There was "simply nowhere to get out" of the area around the tunnel, one survivor told WDR television. Focus magazine quoted the founder of the Love Parade, who goes by the name of Dr Motte (Dr Moth), as saying: "The organisers are to blame ... they showed not the slightest responsibility for people."

The influential mass circulation daily Bild asked on its website: "Why did the police let people carry on the party?" Mayor Adolf Sauerland defended the security and vowed to hold a comprehensive inquiry. "In the run-up to the event, we worked out a solid security plan with the organisers and everyone involved," he said. "The investigations that have already been launched must uncover the precise course of events." * AFP

Huddled together in Duisburg's main train station, unable to leave, Love Parade partygoers still in shock today were reliving the horror of the mass panic. "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 on a student exchange in Belgium. "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," she said, as she hunted for two lost friends. Nevertheless, her experience did not stop her from taking part. "I finally went to the festival, because I wanted to let up," she said. Another raver who gave his name as Alexis from the western German city of Wuppertal said he was in the tunnel leading to the show ground 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. Taggart Bowen-Gaddy, 20, an American from Philadelphia studying in the French city of Metz, said there were a few angry incidents as people began to lash out in the panic, but overall people tried to save the lives of others. "A lot of people were very afraid. Some were completely crying, probably they were on drugs," he said. "Some guys got angry, protecting their girlfriends. But overall people wanted to help each other. Everyone just wanted to get out." For many survivors, panic and terror gave way quickly to anger directed at the authorities and the organisers, who kept the party going until late yesterday in a bid to avoid a further crush. One 31-year-old from Hanover, who gave his name as Lubbert, said: "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." "At the end, the organisers even said 'thank you for a great day'." Patrick Guenter, a 22-year-old baker, also hit out at the organisers. "The organisation 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 organisers didn't plan the route. The road was very narrow. There was no planning, no one knew what was going on," added Mr Bowen-Gaddy. Another 31-year-old man, also named 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 organise it after this," he said. * AFP