THE death toll rose to 19 yesterday and police said that 340 had been injured in a panicked crush of partygoers in an overcrowded tunnel that served as the sole entrance to a German festival billed as the world’s largest techno music party.
The tragedy shocked the nation and dominated news coverage yesterday. Many were wondering how such a tragedy could occur in a country that in recent years has organised much bigger events, such as the World Cup four years ago, that went off smoothly.
This year’s organiser of the Love Parade said the event – which has been held for two decades now – would never be held again.
“The Love Parade was always a peaceful event and a happy party” but would forever be overshadowed by the tragedy, Rainer Schaller said.
“It’s over for the Love Parade,” he said.
He spoke at a press conference where authorities faced tough questions, but provided few details, about why up to hundreds of thousands of people were funnelled through a single highway underpass onto the grounds of former freight railway station used to host the party.
Rainer Wendt, leader of a major German police union, told the Bild daily that his group warned a year ago in vain that Duisburg was an unacceptable location for the Love Parade.
“The city is too narrow, too small to manage the masses of people,” Wendt was quoted as saying by Bild’s website. He said the blame rests with the city mayor and the Love Parade organisers.
The founder of the Love Parade, Matthias Roeingh – generally known by his artist’s name, Dr Motte – blamed this year’s organisers, saying “one single entrance through a tunnel lends itself to disaster. I am very sad.”
German media reported that there were at least 1.4 million people at the event but police did not confirm that estimate. They said they have no exact figure but suggested it was much lower based on the fact that the railway service registered 105,000 as arriving in the city by train in the preceding hours.
Detlef von Schmeling, the police chief in Duisburg, said that 18 of the 19 people killed have been identified so far. He said they include six foreigners from Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, China and two from Spain
Von Schmeling said their ages ranged from just over 20 to 40.
Witnesses said officers in Duisburg, a city near Dusseldorf in western Germany, closed the end of the tunnel emptying onto the festival grounds after they became overcrowded around 5 pm. They told revellers over loudspeakers to turn around and walk back in the other direction. But the entrance to the tunnel did not appear to have been closed and people continued piling in, sparking a panic and then a deadly crush.
Witnesses described a desperate scene, as people piled up on each other or scrambled over others who had fallen. TV images showed huge masses of people packed inside the wide tunnel and people struggling to escape up an embankment when the chaos broke out.
Partygoer Udo Sandhoefer told n-tv television that even though no one else was being let in, people still streamed into the tunnel, causing “a real mass panic.”
“At some point the column (of people) got stuck, probably because everything was closed up front, and we saw that the first people were already lying on the ground,” he said.
City officials chose not to evacuate the site, fearing it might spark more panic, and many people continued partying, unaware of the deaths.
Rescue workers carried away the injured as techno music thundered in the background.
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