Thousands mourn Love Parade victims

Thousands of people paid their respects on Saturday in the German city of Duisburg to the 21 people who died in the Love Parade tragedy a week earlier.The memorial at Salvator Church, which opened with sombre organ music, was shown on screens in a football stadium and a dozen other churches in the western city of Duisburg. Several TV stations carried the service live, and flags across the country flew at half-mast.Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff were among several hundred mourners in a church service. Family members of the victims also attended.The 21 people who died were aged 18 to 38 and included foreigners from Spain, Australia, Italy, Bosnia, China and Holland.The ceremony was led by Roman Catholic and Lutheran Protestant clerics – representing Germany’s two main denominations.”The Love Parade was danced to death,” Nikolaus Schneider, the head of the Rhineland Lutheran Church Assembly, said in his sermon. “In the middle of a celebration of lust for life, death showed its ugly face to all of us.”Franz-Josef Overbeck, the Catholic bishop of the neighbouring city of Essen, said: “Life can be so oppositional: One moment there is a party, the next moment we are lying helplessly on the ground.””We want to stir our life in secure ways, but don’t have it under control.”After the sermons, rescue helpers lit 21 candles for the victims of the tragedy.In Duisburg’s football stadium, a large black cross several metres high was set up on the pitch. Many of those in the stadium wore black and had tears in their eyes. The solemn ceremony was also carried live on television.Before the service church bells rang mournfully out across the western industrial city of half a million people, where flags were at half-mast, as they were across the whole of a shocked Germany.”I was there, working as a helper and saw it all happen. A friend of mine was hurt,” Markus Spanke, aged around 20, told AFP in the stadium. “I will never forget it.””We were at the Love Parade, we saw everything from the bridge. We can’t shake those images of panic from our heads,” said Phil Napeirala, 21, from nearby Essen.Later on Saturday a march was due to take place from Duisburg train station towards the narrow tunnel that served as the only entrance to the grounds hosting the techno music festival. Reports said 20,000 people were expected.It was in this lethally packed bottleneck of a tunnel, now a solemn sea of candles and flowers and photos, that the victims died as revellers desperately tried to escape.The dead included seven foreigners, from Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, China, Bosnia and Spain who had come for one of Europe’s top techno events. More than 500 people were hurt, 25 of whom are reportedly still in hospital.One man absent from public view however was Adolf Sauerland, the mayor, who has come under intense pressure to resign amid accusations that he ignored warnings that the event was a disaster waiting to happen.An interim police report on Wednesday also put the blame on Love Parade organisers, listing a catalogue of catastrophic mistakes in managing the crowd of hundreds of thousands. Prosecutors have opened an investigation.The grounds opened nearly two hours late, leading to an initial blockage in the tunnel, Dieter Wehe, chief of police in the local North Rhine-Westphalia state, said as he presented the preliminary findings.Thereafter, police said organisers were incapable of dispersing the crowds at the tunnel’s exit, partly because there were fewer stewards than promised and partly because there were no loudspeakers to control the crowd.When the scale of the crush became clear, police ordered stewards to close the heaving access points but this order was not carried out, Wehe said, fighting back tears at a news conference.”It’s going to take a long time before Duisburg can get back to normal,” said Reiner, one of the mourners at the football stadium.AFP/AP
Nanjing Night Net