Three killed as massive storm destroys music festival stage


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The Independent Online

At least three people were killed last night, and 71 injured, when a stage collapsed during stormy weather at a Belgian music festival.

Video footage showed stage equipment dangling in high winds as rain-soaked concertgoers at the Pukkelpop festival – whose line-up includes Foo Fighters, Eminem and The Offspring – ran for cover near the town of Hasselt, about 50 miles east of Brussels.

About 60,000 people were said to be at the three-day event, which started yesterday.

Trees were uprooted at the festival and smashed into stage rigging, bringing it down, Belgian media reported.

Two cranes were brought in to try to lift the large tent, but the ground appeared too swamped for them to reach the area.

Hugo Simons, Hasselt's head of emergency planning, said 11 people were severely injured, while 60 sustained light injuries.

Hilde Claes, Hasselt's mayor, said those badly injured were taken to several hospitals while those lightly injured were being treated at a local sports complex.

Chokri Mahassine, the festival organiser, said: "We have for now put the festival on hold until we understand the situation completely."

It is the second time in a week that festival staging has fallen with fatal consequences. Last Saturday, five people in the US died and 40 were injured, some seriously, when high winds of up to 70 miles per hour caused a stage to collapse.

Four concertgoers died at the scene, and another, identified as a spotlight operator who had been perched above the stage, died in hospital.

Music fans had filled the seats and standing area at the main stage of the grounds waiting for a concert to begin. The steel rigging that held lights and other paraphernalia toppled after being struck by a gust of wind, witnesses said.

An investigation into safety failures that may have led to that collapse is under way.