Love Parade to be halted as death toll reaches 19

 

Organisers of the Love Parade have announced they are discontinuing the annual techno festival after 19 people died in a stampede at yesterday’s event in Duisburg.

At an angry press conference in Duisburg town hall today, police said that the main entrance to the festival grounds — a disused freight station — was not closed due to overcrowding, as reported. However they were unable to say why the entrance was closed and by whom.

“A terrible tragedy happened yesterday. Words can’t express my sorrow, we will do everything possible to clear up what happened,” said Rainer Schaller, the event organiser. “The Love Parade was always a peaceful event, a joyous party.

Yesterday’s tragic events will always be overshadowed by yesterday’s events. Out of respect, we will no longer continue. This means the end of the Love Parade.”

Among the 16 victims identified so far, aged between 20 and 40, were four foreigners: from the Netherlands, Italy, Australia and China.

Police disputed media reports that the victims died in a crush in a tunnel leading to the event. “No one died in the tunnel,” said Detlef von Schmelling, police president of Duisburg. “Of those who died, 14 people were found in the area of a blocked-off staircase and two near a wall.”

The festival, which police said drew about 1.4 million people, was not immediately canceled because authorities feared an abrupt halt could spark a second panic.

Music blared out after the stampede and people danced on, unaware of the unfolding tragedy nearby. Organisers finally called the event off in late evening hours after the deaths.

"There were piles of injured on the ground, some being resuscitated, others dead and covered with sheets," 18-year-old Love Parade participant Isabel Schloesser said.

"It was way too full in the afternoon, everybody wanted to get in," she said after leaving the rubble-strewn entrance where echoes of a throbbing bass beat could still be heard more than three hours after the crush.

Rescue work was initially hampered by the huge crowds attending one of Europe's biggest electronic music events in fine weather, officials said. People had come from all around Europe to the Love Parade, most in the 18-25 age bracket.

German President Christian Wulff expressed sympathy in a statement and Chancellor Angel Merkel sent a message of condolence to the relatives of the victims.

"These young people went to party and instead found death and injury. I am appalled and saddened by so much suffering and pain," her statement said.

Authorities put the death toll at 19, with at least 340 more injured, many severely.

In the direct aftermath, ambulances rushed to pick up victims and police set up an emergency first aid station near the entrance, where live images from WDR television showed thousands of revelers streaming out of the festival toward the main train station as rescue helicopters circled overhead.

"The emergency workers had problems getting to the area due to the massive crowds," a fire department spokesman from Duisburg said, declining to be named.

The annual event with a backdrop of electronic dance music such as House, Trance and Techno, flamboyant outfits and energetic dance moves, was first held in Berlin in 1989 as an event to promote peace through music.