Organisers blamed for German Love Parade deaths
- 25 July 2010
- From the section Europe
Survivors of a stampede at a free dance music festival in Germany in which 19 people were killed have blamed organisers for the deaths.
Witnesses criticised the decision to have just one entrance through a tunnel to the Love Parade, and said they had warned police about overcrowding.
However, the mayor of Duisburg told a press conference that it was too early to blame anyone for the incident.
The organiser of the festival said that there would be no more Love Parades.
"The Love Parade has always been a joyful and peaceful party, but in future would always be overshadowed by yesterday's events," , Rainer Schaller said.
"Out of respect for the victims, their families and friends, we are going to discontinue the event in the future, and that means the end of the Love Parade."
German prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the disaster.
Officials faced angry questions at the hour-long press conference in Duisburg.
Mayor Adolf Sauerland said that although the question of why the disaster had happened was "absolutely justified and must be answered" he insisted that until the investigation was complete, any apportioning of guilt would be "out of order".
"That would not serve the victims, nor would it serve the families," he said.
Mr Sauerland said 340 people had been injured.
Sixteen of the dead had been identified, he added, and four of the victims were foreigners: one from the Netherlands, one from Australia, one from Italy and one China. They ranged in age from just over 20 to 40.
Mr Sauerland said that a security plan for the festival had been worked out beforehand "which gave no reason to believe that there would be a problem".
But BBC Berlin correspondent Tristana Moore says critics argued that the organisers and police were not prepared for such huge numbers of visitors and the site itself - an old railway yard - was too small and completely unsuitable.
The police insisted that security arrangements were adequate and claimed the site was not overcrowded. German media said the festival had drawn about 1.4 million people.
The head of a major police union, Rainer Wendt, told the Bild newspaper his organisation had warned a year ago that Duisburg was "too narrow, too small to manage the masses of people".
Police said that no-one had died inside the tunnel.
Deputy police chief Detlef von Schmeling said: "Fourteen people died on the metal steps leading away from the tunnel, two on a wall outside the tunnel."
Police had reportedly closed the exit to the tunnel and were telling those trying to get in to turn around when panic broke out, although the exact circumstances of the stampede are still not clear.
Eyewitnesses claim they tried to warn police before the stampede occurred that the tunnel was overcrowded, but said the authorities ignored their warnings.
"You cannot jail one million people behind fences, you need to let them walk around free, then such things do not happen," one witness told journalists.
One local resident told the Associated Press news agency: "Three days ago I thought the organiser was stupid because he only made one entrance point to the Love Parade."
Officials said emergency workers had difficulties reaching the injured because of the massive crowds.
A young woman told Die Welt: "Everywhere you looked, there were people with blue faces. My boyfriend pulled me out over the bodies, otherwise we would both have died in there."
One festival-goer, who gave his name as Lubbert, told Agence France-Presse news agency: "What's crazy is that the party carried on. That's just not right. People kept on dancing even though they might have had friends who had died."
Organisers and city officials said they had continued with the event fearing closure might spark another stampede.