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Officials explain little on German festival stampede

07-26-2010 08:23 BJT

DUISBURG, Germany, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Authorities of the western German city of Duisburg faced tough questions but offered few answers on Sunday for a Saturday festival stampede that killed at least 19 people.

"I can't dress up my grief with words. This misfortune is so appalling that it can't be described with words," Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland told reporters, who were crowded in a meeting room for a press conference at Sunday noon.

The city's Love Parade, a giant electric music festival, witnessed a serious stampede Saturday that killed at least 19 people and injured more than 300 others.

The panic broke out shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday as music fans were climbing up fences and walls to leave an overcrowded tunnel, which was under a motorway and led to the main stage of the parade and open-door party.

Witnesses said some people fell from the fences and then were scrambled over, causing more people on the ground to be crushed, as thousands of them were piling up in a narrow ramp and pushing each other.

Police said in the press conference that people were trampled to death at an access ramp connecting the tunnel to the main sites, not in the tunnel as previously believed.

Acting Police Chief of Duisburg Detlef Von Schmeling said that two criminal reports related to the incident were under investigation, and the police did open a second access ramp before the stampede to relieve the pressure around the tunnel.

However, doubts were raised on whether the authorities have been well prepared for organizing such a large-scale festival.

According to media estimation, the main stage, an old train station area, could contain 250,000 to 500,000 people at most. However, organizers said more than 1 million people have rushed into the city, whose population is just 500,000, to attend the annual festival.

Matthias Roeingh, one of the founders of the Love Parade, also called Dr. Motte, told reporters that the organizers provided only one tunnel exit for the crowding music fans, which has proved to be "a huge management mistake."

"How can they let people go through only one tunnel to the grounds? It's a scandal," he said.

Some witnesses were angry at the authorities' slow reaction when they warned the police some 45 minutes before the stampede that the tunnel was unbearably crowded with little fresh air and might cause disasters.

Sauerland defended the operation plan of the festival, saying "It wasn't the security concept that didn't work, but probably (the blame) lies with individual shortcomings," he said.

The mayor also called on the public to wait for the investigation results before making any other judgment.

German news agency DPA reported that the police and the organizers have handed over documents to the prosecutors for investigation.

Von Schmeling said that 16 of the 19 victims have been identified so far, and four foreigners were among the killed, who were from China, the Netherlands, Australia and Italy.

Wang Xiting, deputy consul-general of the Chinese consulate-general in Frankfurt confirmed to Xinhua that one Chinese woman was killed in the stampede. The consulate-general was keeping in touch with local police, and some officials have gone to Duisburg for further details and aftermath.

Wang Xin, chairman of the Chinese student association in Duisburg, told Xinhua that the Chinese victim was not a student, and she may work in a city near Duisburg.

Rainer Schaller, the founder of the Love Parade, said in the press conference that due to the stunning tragedy, it would be the last Love Parade, which was one of Europe's largest electronic music festivals and first held in Berlin in 1989.

"The Love Parade was always a peaceful event and a happy party," but it would never escape the shadow of Saturday's tragedy, Schaller said, with sadness in his eyes. "It's over for the Love Parade."

Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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