At least 18 die in stampede at German music festival

Around 80 injured, but city officials allow 'Love Parade' party to go on in attempt to avoid further outbreak of mass panic
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Germany's celebrated Love Parade techno music festival in the Rhine city of Duisburg turned into a nightmare yesterday when at least 18 people were trampled to death after panic broke out among revellers trapped in a tunnel leading to the event.

Police said a human stampede occurred in a narrow tunnel near the festival entrance which passed under railway tracks outside the city's main train station.

Udo Sandhöfer, who managed to escape from the tunnel unhurt, told Germany's NTV news channel: "There were at least 500 people trapped in there. Those at the front were pushed to the ground in the stampede; others tried to climb up the wall of the tunnel. There was mass panic in there. It was horrific."

Another eyewitness told the channel: "It was programmed chaos. It was unimaginable – there were bodies lying all over the place. It was like a war zone." Others spoke of injured festival-goers being evacuated to hospital by helicopter or given oral resuscitation by ambulance crews.

"The police tried to force their way into the tunnel to pull out the injured. But they couldn't make it, as the tunnel was just too full ," one said. Police said at least 80 people were injured in the stampede

Several other witnesses said the disaster appeared to have occurred after police and festival organisers ordered the end of the tunnel closest to the festival entrance to be closed off to slow the rush of people trying to get into to the event.

Jürgen Kiskemper, the Duisburg police commissioner, described the situation as "extremely chaotic". He added: "The cause of the mass panic is still not clear. We have to find out what happened." Unlike previous Love Parade festivals in Berlin, the Duisburg event took place in a disused rail freight yard where the organisers and police used metal crash barriers to fence revellers in.

Despite the stampede, the festival organisers decided against stopping the Love Parade, attended by an estimated 1.4 million people, as they feared that prematurely ending he event might lead to further mass panic. Television pictures showed thousands of techno fans dancing wildly, clearly oblivious to what had happened.

Several German news reporters on the scene said it appeared that the Duisburg authorities and festival organisers had underestimated the numbers coming to the parade and had been caught unawares. Police shut down Duisburg's main station after the tragedy and announced an inquiry.

The Love Parade began in Berlin in 1989, and at its peak 20 years later, attracted crowds of up to 1.5 million from all over the world. The Love Parade moved to Essen in 2007 and Dortmund in 2008. Yesterday's Love Parade was the first time the event has been held in two years.