Mayor urged to quit after Germany's Love Parade tragedy
The mayor of the German city of Duisburg faced intense pressure to quit Monday two days after a panicked stampede at the Love Parade festival left 19 people dead.
Authorities had reportedly been warned the western industrial city was too small to hold one of Europe's biggest techno music festivals, while security arrangements have been slammed as being woefully inadequate.
"Even if prosecutors are still conducting their investigation, it is clear the Duisburg city officials failed completely," the local Neue Rhein Zeitung (NRZ) said in an editorial.
"Even on the evening of the accident, while seriously injured people were dying in hospital, officials were cowardly trying to talk their way of it and even defending their security plan."
Mayor Adolf Sauerland, who staunchly defended what he said was a "solid" security plan at a news conference on Sunday, and who was reportedly pelted with rubbish, has come under fierce attack.
"The cynical reaction of the mayor, who said the victims' behaviour was partly to blame, was unacceptable," wrote the NRZ paper.
"His scandalous position was nothing less than a mockery of the dead -- of young people who came from afar to party and who died because of your overburdened organisation."
Sauerland said Monday he did not rule out stepping down.
"Yesterday and today the question of who was responsible was asked, including about me. I will ask myself this question," he told radio station WDR2.
Police said that the 11 women and eight men died as they scrambled to escape from a crush in a narrow, 100-metre (yard) tunnel that served as the only entrance to the festival grounds.
The dead were aged between 20 and 40 and included seven foreigners, from Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, China, Bosnia and Spain. More than 340 people were injured. None of them was in a critical condition on Monday.
Television pictures on Saturday showed lifeless bodies being passed over the heads of those frantically trying to escape while oblivious revellers danced.
"We were in the tunnel, but we were lucky. When we heard there were four dead, we managed to get out," Evie Aslanidou, 20, a Greek student living in the town, told AFP on Monday as she braved driving rain to return to the scene.
German-born Pope Benedict XVI and Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed their horror, with the German leader calling it a "very, very dreadful and sad day" and demanding a "very intensive investigation."
Flags were at half-mast in the city on Monday after Saturday's tragedy, and in the surrounding region.
At the entrance to the tunnel, where hundreds of candles, bouquets of flowers and an impromptu remembrance board with hundreds of signatures marked the dead, there were furious messages for the organisers.
"This event should never have taken place here," read one. "You should be ashamed of yourselves," said another.
Monday's edition of the daily Stadt-Anzeiger in nearby Cologne said the mayor had been warned in writing in October 2009 that the grounds were too narrow for the expected crowds but that the concerns went unheeded.
Spiegel magazine said on its website that the festival only had authorisation for 250,000 revellers instead of for 1.4 million people who organisers said had attended.
© 2010 AFP