DUISBURG, Germany (Reuters) – A stampede killed at least 17 people after mass panic broke out in a tunnel at a Love Parade techno music festival in Germany yesterday.
Overcrowding at the entrance tunnel to a former freight rail station where the event was being held, sparked the stampede and then a crush among the mainly young festival-goers, police said.
The festival, which police said drew about 1.4 million people, was not immediately cancelled 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 told Reuters.
“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.
Police in the industrial Ruhr city of Duisburg in western Germany had tried to close the tunnel entrance about a half an hour before the chaos broke out in late afternoon.
“Apparently some tried to enter the area by climbing a fence along a ramp and then fell,” the head of an emergency task force, Wolfgang Rabe, said on ARD television. “It is still a presumption at the moment, but this could have caused a panic.”
North Rhine-Westphalia state interior minister Ralf Jaeger arrived at the scene in the evening and said 5,500 police and emergency workers had been mobilised to organise the end of the festival, which left thousands in a state of shock.