Pukkelpop storm: Eyewitness accounts from Belgium


Five people have died after a sudden and violent storm hit a Belgian music festival.

Staging collapsed, giant screens fell, tents were flattened and trees were uprooted, all in the space of minutes after the storm struck.

BBC News website readers who attended the Pukkelpop festival share their experiences.

Jef Tips, entertainer

media captionPukkelpop festival storm

The atmosphere before was so different, so pleasant. The sun was shining, people were happy, looking forward to a few days of fun and good music.

It started to rain and we made comments about people getting a bit wet at the festival but no-one thought it would be anything serious.

Then it started to hail and things changed very quickly. The sky went grey and then really dark grey. I ran into the trailer where people were sheltering.

Outside there were bits of trees flying in the air and I had been hit in the head a few times.

The main tent collapsed and people were panicked. Then after only a few minutes, everything stopped. The rain stopped and the sun was shining again.

People were just dazed. They wandered about looking for friends. We were all helping each other and being a comfort to each other. Over only 10 minutes everything went from heaven to hell.

I work at all the festivals in Belgium and I have never seen anything like this ever. In Belgium we are not used to this sort of tragedy at our festivals. People are devestated.

Dean Rowbotham, Guitar tech

image captionAreas were set up to help the wounded

We were really lucky, a tree fell on the stage but we are OK.

The storm came out of nowhere. When we arrived at the festival it was beautiful weather.

We were setting up when we heard the rainfall and the hail. There was a total downpour. The whole tent was a mess.

The festival orgnanisers dealt with the whole thing so well - they cannot be faulted on the way they reacted.

We tried to help people out where we could. There were a lot of ambulances there and our drum tech helped to stretcher people out.

It really could not have happened to a better festival. Pukkelpop is one of the best festivals. We didn't get to play this time and obviously the festival is now cancelled. I would go back though.

Carlo Theuwen, festival goer

We live in town but we had decided to stay at the camp. The storm came very suddenly.

We had stopped to eat a sandwich when I saw the clouds coming. We didn't make it to shelter fast enough before the hail started.

image captionFestival campers search for damaged tents in the muddy darkness

We tried to get under a tent to shelter but too many people were trying to get under there. We were being hit by the hail, it was hailing really hard.

We saw another tent collapse and then our tent started to collapse. People shouted: "Go! Go! Go!" and there was a big push to get out of the tent.

We could hear people screaming and I was scared that everyone would push and panic.

When the hail stopped, we tried to make our way back to the camping area. The tents were all broken and there was mud everywhere.

I sank into the mud up to my knees at one point.

Lots of people decided to leave then. All of the buses were full and the traffic was really bad. The trains were also slow and delayed. We live in the city centre so we walked home.

Last night none of us slept very well because of what we had seen."

Sebastiaan Bedaux, journalist

My girlfriend and I were standing in the middle of the tent, but I told her to move closer to the exit, just in case.

Then there was a crack, and the crowd started moving and that's when I was afraid of getting trampled.

There were more or less 400 people behind us, all heading towards the exit. But 'luckily' the tent ripped open.

I saw iron bars falling just next to us and we ran towards an open area where we would be a little more safe.

We were standing behind a fence, trying to hold it against the wind with 10 or 20 people. Two guys brought an unconscious girl towards us, for shelter against the strong wind.

Ten minutes later everything was over.

Jens Lange, festival goer

image captionMany structures were blown over by strong winds

The weather seemed OK until we went to see the last band Skunk Anansie. It was a bit grey and windy during their last songs but it was OK.

When they were done playing we turned around and the weather was apocalyptic. Before it had been very hot then it started to rain and then hail with big thick hailstones.

We decided not to look for shelter. It was so windy that my friend and I decided to stay where we were under a poncho.

We were out of reach of the stage and tent poles. Sure, we were being hit by hailstones but that is not so bad. When we looked out from the poncho we saw that the stage was damaged, tents were down and a tree had fallen over. We realised that the fun was seriously over.

It was over so quickly but the response was really very good. The organisation handled it really well to let people walk off the shock and let the panic go.

When we heard that people had died we decided to leave.

We were caught in a little traffic but it was not too bad. There were a lot of kids waiting at the roadside for their parents to come and collect them.

I am shocked by what happened but we are the lucky ones.

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