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Germany

Calls for explanation sound amid mourning at Love Parade memorial

Politicians demanded explanations and consequences on Saturday amid a memorial to those killed at Duisburg's Love Parade. Later, around 2,000 people gathered in a mourning processional to the site of the tragedy.

Bishop Overbeck lights candles at the Duisburg memorial service

The service was broadcast throughout the community

Demands for explanation were heard Saturday among the words of mourning at memorials for the 21 victims killed at last week's Love Parade stampede.

"It is extremely important for those affected by the tragedy to experience that the whole nation is mourning with them, that millions are sympathizing," German President Christian Wulff told 1Live radio.

Wulff added, without naming names, that someone had to take responsibility for the tragedy and that there would be consequences for those responsible.

Earlier, Hannelore Kraft, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, spoke before grieving family members and politicians about the young victims who "had their whole futures ahead of them."

"How could this happen?" she asked at a memorial service in at Duisburg's Salvator Church. "Who is to bear the blame? Who is responsible?"

"We owe it to them and no less to ourselves to get to the bottom of this inconceivable event," said Kraft, whose own son had attended the Love Parade.

'Love stronger than death'

Rescue helpers carry candles to church in Duisburg

Rescue workers took part in the church service

Kraft's speech was preceded by religious words from Nikolaus Schneider, the leader of Germany's Protestants, and Franz-Josef Overbeck, the Roman Catholic bishop of Essen.

"Our lives are so contradictory," said Overbeck. "One moment it's party, the next we lie helpless, on the ground."

Overbeck recalled to mourners the name of the Love Parade, saying that love was stronger than death and would help them through their time of distress.

Although the ecumenical Christian service for the victims had space for only 550 mourners, video coverage was relayed to the city's football stadium and 12 churches around the city to accommodate the thousands of people who came to show their respects.

Priority of place in the church was given to the relatives of the dead and seriously injured as well as members of the emergency services. They were joined by Kraft, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Christian Wulff.

Around 2,000 people gathered Saturday afternoon in a mourning processional from the city train station to the tunnel outside which the tragedy occurred, retracing the final steps of the deceased and releasing black and white balloons at the site of the stampede.

Merkel, Wulff and Kraft

Merkel, Wulff and Kraft were among those attending

Question of responsibility

One person absent from public view was Adolf Sauerland, Duisburg's mayor, who has come under intense pressure to resign amid growing anger at last Saturday's disaster.

Earlier in the week, Kraft told the German regional daily Rheinische Post that Sauerland "and those responsible in the city government will ultimately have to take political responsibility." Sauerland has maintained throughout the week that he did not sign any permit for the event to be held.

The Left party has placed a motion for Sauerland to be removed from office at the next meeting of the Duisburg city council, according to the Rheinische Post on Friday.

Wilhelm Bies, council group leader of the Free Democrats, told the newspaper that his party colleagues would support the removal of Sauerland. However, the next meeting is not until October.

Criticism of the mayor increased following the release of a preliminary investigative report on Wednesday, which stated that Love Parade organizers had failed to adhere to their own safety plan and that the city government, which approved the event permit, had been disorganized.

Author: Richard Connor, David Levitz (dpa/epd/Reuters/KNA)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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