Belgium set to declare Pukkelpop storm a natural catastrophe

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Belgium is set to declare a thunderstorm that killed five people at a Flemish rock festival a natural disaster, but public emergency aid the decision opens up will not be used to refund ticket prices, media reported Saturday.

The federal public interior ministry told Belga news agency that damage from falling trees, flooding or fire not covered by existing insurance policies could be claimed from the fund by festival organisers and residents whose homes also suffered damage.

"Many Hasselt residents suffered damage. A request for recognition by the disaster fund will be lodged on Monday," said the city's mayor, Hilde Claes.

However, a 250-euro floor means the tickets -- on average, around 60 euros over the scheduled three days of an event that drew around 60,000 revellers each day -- would not be covered through this mechanism.

The Royal Meteorogical Institute of Belgium has already described the weather conditions on Thursday evening at the Pukkelpop festival as exceptional.

As relatives and officials paid emotional tribute to the victims, laying flowers around photographs of the confirmed dead put up by loved ones at the site near the eastern Dutch border, Claes announed that an acoustic-only musical memorial will be held on Thursday evening.

That will be exactly one week after the freak hailstorm that saw stages, tents and whole trees come crashing down.

© 2011 AFP

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