Blame game as German Love Parade death toll rises

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Fresh accusations emerged Tuesday that the under-fire mayor of Duisburg in Germany ignored warnings that the Love Parade was a disaster waiting to happen, as the death toll rose to 20.

More than 500 people were injured in Saturday's tragedy, crushed as panic broke out in a narrow tunnel that served as the only entrance to the techno festival grounds that were reportedly far too small for the number of ravers.

An unnamed officer from the city police force told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily: "The police in Duisburg made their misgivings known at several workshops and during several discussions."

The daily Stadt-Anzeiger in nearby Cologne also reported on its website that both police and the fire brigade had expressed reservations about the venue.

According to the paper, the head of Duisburg's fire brigade wrote to the mayor, Adolf Sauerland, in October 2009 to say that the disused railway freight grounds were "physically not suitable."

And the former head of Duisburg fire brigade, Klaus Schaefer, told rolling news channel N-TV that he had "urgently advised against" the event taking place.

Organisers said that 1.4 million people attended the festival, one of Europe's biggest techno dance parties, although the festival only had authorisation for 250,000 revellers, according to Spiegel magazine.

Sauerland, 55, who has so far resisted pressure from all sides to resign and has reportedly been pelted with rubbish by furious citizens, denied the reports.

"I am not aware of any warnings," he told the Rheinische Post local paper.

The paper also reported that "misgivings about security flaws were swept under the carpet."

It also emerged Tuesday that authorities withheld permission to stage the event until the last possible minute.

The Stadt-Anzeiger quoted an "insider" at city hall as saying that the final authorisation was signed on Saturday morning, only hours before revellers began arriving.

Local media and residents have charged Sauerland with brushing aside safety concerns out of a desire to make a sizeable profit from the festival.

Meanwhile, prosecutors stepped up their manslaughter investigation into the causes of the catastrophe, as floral and written tributes continued to pile up in and around the tunnel where the deaths took place.

The latest victim, a 21-year-old German woman, succumbed to her injuries in hospital late Monday. In all, seven foreigners -- from Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, China, Bosnia and Spain -- were among the dead.

Adding to the pressure on Sauerland, several papers ratcheted up their campaign for him to take the rap.

Influential mass circulation Bild published pictures of seven of the victims with the front-page headline: "Who will pay for their deaths?"

"These young people were crushed, suffocated and trampled -- but no one wants to take responsibility for their deaths," the paper thundered.

© 2010 AFP

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