Love Parade death toll rises, investigation continues | Current Affairs | DW | 26.07.2010
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Current Affairs

Love Parade death toll rises, investigation continues

After mass panic broke out at Saturday's Love Parade music festival, killing 20 visitors, state prosecutors have launched an investigation of possible negligent manslaughter in the planning of the event.

Mourners lay flowers to honor the victims

Mourners laid flowers to honor the victims

Police in the German city of Duisburg revealed Monday that a further victim of the weekend's mass stampede at the Love Parade music festival has died.

The death toll now stands at 20, and more than 500 people are still being treated for their injuries after panic broke out in a tunnel leading to the festival grounds on Saturday afternoon.

Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland, who defended what he called a "solid" security plan at a news conference on Sunday and was pelted with rubbish by angry bystanders, has faced scathing criticism from several media outlets.

He resisted calls for his immediate resignation on Monday and told public broadcaster WDR that he would address that issue when the time was right.

"I will be asking myself this question, there's no doubt about that," he said, adding that the main issue now was explaining Saturday's tragedy. "And when we know what happened there, then we will answer this question. That I promise."

"If the city is guilty of anything then we will assume responsibility," he said in a statement.

Sauerland said a condolence book would remain available through the end of the month and that the city was working with church officials to plan a memorial service.

'Consequences must be drawn urgently'

Mayor Sauerland at a press conference

Sauerland, right, has defended the city's "solid" security plan

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she expected a "scrupulously thorough" investigation into the tragedy, according to her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm.

"A full picture and a proper analysis of what happened and what mistakes were possibly made can however only be done once the investigation is completed," he added.

"Consequences must be drawn urgently ... I think it's clear the security plans were not good," said Hannelore Kraft, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, in an interview on ARD television.

Earlier Monday, German prosecutors seized documents relating to the security planning of the event. Rolf Haferkamp, spokesman for the Duisburg state prosecutors' office, said he could not speak about the content of the numerous documents that were seized, but said the investigation of possible negligent manslaughter was ongoing.

Who's to blame?

One theoretical explanation for the accident that quickly emerged in the press was that Duisburg, a city in the former coal-mining Ruhr region, was desperate to gain from the prestige of the Love Parade, and that city officials did not take security concerns seriously.

The Ruhr 2010 European Capital of Culture program has taken the lead in attracting such events and the program's chief organizer, Fritz Pleitgen, said he felt "jointly responsible, but more in a moral sense."

"[The Love Parade] was offered to us as a project for the Capital of Culture program," he told ZDF public television. "We accepted that, but we were not involved in financing or organizing the event."

The Cologne-based daily newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger also reported that the chief of the Duisburg fire department told Sauerland in writing that the location for the event - the city's former freight rail station - was too small for the expected number of visitors.

And the online edition of the news magazine Der Spiegel reported that an official document issued by the city of Duisburg authorized only 250,000 people for the event - far short of the estimated 1.4 million who attended. It also reportedly exempted the organizers from the minimal width of escape routes and from having fire brigade provisions.

Crowds at the Duisburg love parade

Organizers said the Love Parade would never take place again

Police unions point finger

Rainer Wendt, head of the national police union, said police warnings about the dangers of holding the festival in Duisburg were not heeded.

"I warned them a year ago that Duisburg was not a suitable location for the Love Parade. It's too small and too cramped," said Wendt. "But I was called a killjoy and a security fanatic."

A report in the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger said that Mayor Sauerland gave the go-ahead for the event just hours before the start, despite concerns from police and fire officials.

However, Frank Richter, head of the state-level North Rhine-Westphalia police trade union, said there was currently no proof that city officials had ignored security concerns.

In an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, Richter placed the blame on the event's organizers.

"I find it unacceptable that those who are responsible for this event, like the organizer [Rainer Schaller], said in the press conference that there would just be no more Love Parades, as if he had nothing to do with this whole thing."

Author: Andrew Bowen, Martin Kuebler (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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