Love turns to horror as 17 killed in stampede
Witnesses tell of huge crush in a tunnel leading to parade ground
SEVENteen people were killed yesterday during Germany's annual Love Parade, held this year in the former industrial city of Duisburg.
Officials and witnesses spoke of a stampede. The dead were reported to include nine women and eight men. A further 100 were injured, some seriously, and many police and ambulance staff were seen trying to resuscitate victims.
What should have been a celebration of techno music and dance turned into horror near a field where hundreds of thousands gathered during the afternoon. Many continued to party even as the air was filled the noise of police sirens, unaware of the tragedy.
Rescue squads had to fight their way through thousands of people, many of whom were inebriated. "They simply had no idea of the scale of the tragedy," said a police spokesman. A state of emergency was declared.
Officials estimated that between 500,000 and a million people descended on Duisburg for the day-long techno music festival.
The event was first held in Berlin in 1989 but moved to the Ruhr area, Germany's former industrial heartland, in 2007 following disagreements with the capital's authorities over logistics and security.
Police said the victims were trampled to death in an underpass leading to the main parade ground.
"It was hell," said Karl Lowenstein, 21, from Bielefeld. "The tunnel was dark, it was full. Something happened -- whether someone tripped or someone fell I don't know. But there was a stampede to get to the other end and those who fell . . . well, many of them never got up again."
Another witness, who gave his first name as Fabio, said he tried to warn police before the stampede occurred that a catastrophe was in the making. "A friend and I got out as hundreds more poured in," he said. "We tried to tell them to close it down, but they didn't listen. This was about 45 minutes before people were killed."
Police and ambulances raced down the neighbouring A59 motorway to try to reach the dead and injured but complained that thousands of people meandering over the carriageways hindered the rescue effort. The main railway station in Duisburg was also closed because of the number of people wandering across the tracks.
Helicopters landed on the autobahn to ferry the seriously injured to hospital.
Crowds of people going one way through the underpass had "totally overfilled it", according to police. But there were reports that others had also tried to force their way in the opposite direction.
More than 1,200 police officers were on duty. "It is a catastrophe that we are struggling to cope with," said a police spokesman shortly after the disaster, which happened at 5pm.
Kevin Krausgartner, 21, from the nearby city of Wuppertal, was in the tunnel when the stampede occurred. "I have never seen anything like it," he said. "I saw 25 people piled on top of one another, a huge heap. I cried.
"The people couldn't get any air. I saw the dead there. One person was completely pale and I wanted to give him some water but a medic said that wouldn't help him -- he was already gone. I saw police on the bridge just standing there and they didn't do anything."