19 killed in Love Parade stampede in Germany
Some were trampled to death, some crushed against the walls of a tunnel, Germany on Sunday mourned 19 people killed in a sudden stampede by thousands trying to get to a huge open air music festival.
Another 340 people were injured in the mass panic to get to the Love Parade dance party in the western city of Duisburg that drew about 1.4 million partygoers from across the world, according to a new mounting toll given by police.
Authorities have not yet given any indication as to what set off the sudden fright. But questions were immediately raised about the safety of the 200 metre (650 feet) long and 30 metre (100 feet) wide tunnel that was the main access to the giant rave being held in a former railway freight yard.
Police said the main crush was inside the tunnel, but a Duisburg city official said some people also died on the steps leading up to the tunnel.
Most revellers remained unaware of the incident and kept on dancing into the night as authorities kept a lid on the news to avoid another panic.
Eyewitnesses described horrific scenes however.
"Everywhere you looked there were blue faces," one young female partygoer told the Die Welt daily.
"My boyfriend pulled me out over the bodies, otherwise we would both have died in there. How can I ever forget those faces. The faces of the dead."
Several people fell to the ground and were trampled underfoot, another witness told the NTV news channel.
"Some people were on the ground while others were climbing up the walls," said the witness, Udo Sandhoefer.
Police and security officials tried to get into the tunnel "but it was already too full," he added.
"People kept trying to get into the tunnel for about 10 minutes, then realised what had happened and turned around," he said.
Another 18-year-old witness named Marius told the Bild daily: "There was no way of escaping. There was a wall of people in front of me. I was scared I was going to die."
Panicked friends and family sent a raft of messages on Twitter in a bid to locate missing partygoers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "aghast" at the catastrophe.
"In these difficult hours, my thoughts are with the relatives of the victims. They have my sympathy and my condolences."
"Young people came to party. Instead, there was death and injury. I am aghast and saddened by the sorrow and the pain," she said in a statement.
President Christian Wulff said: "Such a catastrophe that has caused death, sorrow and pain during a peaceful festival involving young people from many countries is dreadful."
Shock turned quickly to anger as partygoers criticised organisers for only allowing one entrance through the tunnel to the festival.
There was "simply nowhere to get out" of the area around the tunnel, one survivor told WDR television.
Focus magazine quoted the founder of the Love Parade, who goes by the name of Dr Motte (Dr Moth), as saying: "The organisers are to blame ... they showed not the slightest responsibility for people."
The influential mass circulation Bild asked on its website: "Why did the police let people carry on the party?"
Duisburg mayor Adolf Sauerland vowed to hold a comprehensive enquiry.
"In the run-up to the event, we worked out a solid security plan with the organisers and everyone involved," he said.
"The investigations that have already been launched must uncover the precise course of events."
© 2010 AFP