Saturday 25 November 2017

Five dead, 140 injured at Belgium music festival

A man climbs a ladder beside a tree that fell on a promotions booth during a storm at the Pukkelpop music festival. Photo: Getty Images
A man climbs a ladder beside a tree that fell on a promotions booth during a storm at the Pukkelpop music festival. Photo: Getty Images reporters

Five people have been killed and more than 140 injured at an open-air music festival in Belgium.

The Chateau stage at Belgium's Pukkelpop festival, near the town of Hasselt, was apparently destroyed when bad weather caused trees to fall over. A second stage collapsed but it is not thought to have fallen on any concertgoers. Some giant screens also fell down.

A crisis centre has been set up in a gymnasium in Kiewit to help those who have been lightly injured or in shock.

It was announced this morning that the remaining two days of the festival have been cancelled.

Festival-goer Catherine Blaise told Le Soir newspaper: “The sky suddenly turned pitch black and we took shelter waiting for the rain. Then suddenly, there was a downpour. The wind blew violently.

“There were hailstones bigger than a centimeter falling... Trees toppled over. It was unbelievable, the end of the world.”

"It was frightening. It looked terrible. All the structures collapsed," said Brinnie Gardner, 20, of Aukland, New Zealand, who is on a tour of Europe with a friend. "There was panic. It was crazy."

Hugo Simons, Hasselt's head of emergency medical planning, told VRT radio that three people had died, 11 had been severely injured and 60 had sustained light injuries as a result of the storm.

Organisers estimated that 60,000 people were at the three-day festival, which started Thursday, when the storm broke. Many were streaming out of the grounds after the storm, which turned the festival site into a scene of mud and destruction within about 10 minutes.

Cullen Omori, of the band Smith Westerns, who was on the stage at the time, tweeted: "Stage collapsed max almost got crushed by the trees. I hope pukkelpop has insurance bc all our ---- is broke." He later tweeted: "Apologise to anyone who mistook tweet. Wrote directly after running offstage. Just found out the extent of damage. All of prays go out."

Jared Leto, the actor and frontman of the US band Thirty Seconds to Mars, wrote on his own microblogging site: "Four stages down – still raining + thunder if you are here please be safe.

"Serious injuries att he festival. More bad weather poses heading this way. Please take care and caution."

Pukkelpop, which started on Thursday is an annual three-day event with headlining acts this year including the Foo Fighters and Eminem. Reports say some 60,000 people are attending the event. In 2009 it attracted some 180,000 people over the course of three days. It has been running since 1985.

Last year, the festival attracted controversy when the lead singer of the British electropop group Ou Est Le Swimming Pool died. Charles Haddon, 22, leapt to his death from a telecommunications mast being the main stage. Another musician, 60-year-old Michael Been, the former frontman of the US band the Call died after suffering a heart attack.

The stage collapse is the second such fatal incident in less than a week. On Sunday, at least five people were killed and more than 40 injured when a sudden storm caused a concert stage to collapse in during the Indiana State Fair in the US.

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