DUISBURG: Angry survivors demanded answers on Sunday and prosecutors launched an inquiry after a panicked stampede at a techno music festival in Germany killed 19 people and left hundreds hurt.
The German-born Pope Benedict XVI and Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed their horror over Saturday`s catastrophe in the western city of Duisburg, as the German leader called for a "very intensive investigation".
"This was a very, very dreadful and sad day," Merkel said. "We must do everything we can to ensure that something like this never happens again."
Deputy police chief Detlef von Schmeling said the victims, the youngest 20 and the oldest 40, were killed as they scrambled to escape from a narrow tunnel that was the only entrance to the Love Parade festival.
"Fourteen people died on the metal steps leading away from the tunnel, two on a wall outside," he said.
Police said the dead included seven foreigners, from Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, China, Bosnia and Spain. More than 340 people were injured.
At a heated press conference, authorities could offer little explanation as to what had led to the mass panic amid reports that organisers ignored warnings that the venue was too small.
"The organisation was very bad," Patrick Guenter, a 22-year-old baker, said.
"Quickly there was nothing to drink apart from alcohol and although the festival was full, they kept letting people in," he added.
"It seems the organisers didn`t plan the route. The road was very narrow," said Taggart Bowen-Gaddy, 20, an American from Philadelphia.
"There was no planning, no one knew what was going on."
Officials said 4,000 police officers and 1,000 security guards were deployed at the event, which organisers said had attracted up to 1.4 million people. Police could not confirm this figure.
Survivors described a horrific scene as television pictures showed the unconscious and the dead being passed over the heads of those frantically trying to escape.
"I saw dead people in the tunnel, others alive but unconscious on the ground." said Anneke Kuypers, an 18-year-old from New Zealand. "Others were crying."
Monday`s edition of the daily Stadt-Anzeiger in nearby Cologne said authorities had warned the city`s mayor in writing in October that the grounds were too narrow, but that their concerns went unheeded.
The chief organiser, Rainer Schaller, said the popular event would never be held again, "out of respect for the victims and their families".
"I warned one year ago that Duisburg was not a suitable place for the Love Parade. The city is too small and narrow for such events," German police union chief Rainer Wendt told the Bild daily.
Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland said the investigation had been passed to prosecutors but defended what he said was a "solid security plan."
Amid the panic and tragedy came tales of bravery and relief as people tried to help others escape the crush and lost relatives were reunited.
Bowen-Gaddy said that although there was some aggression, "overall, people wanted to help each other. Everyone just wanted to get out."
First held in Berlin in 1989 just months before the fall of the Wall, the Love Parade is one of the biggest techno festivals in Europe, featuring star DJs spinning turntables while large floats move through the crowd.
It left Berlin from 2007 onwards after disagreements with the city authorities over logistics and security and has been held in several other German cities in recent years.
BDST: 0923 HRS, July 26, 2010