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Germany Pays Tribute To Love Parade Victims

Twenty-one people were killed in the stampede
Thousands of people have attended a memorial service in Germany for the 21 people who were killed during a stampede at the Love Parade dance music festival one week ago.

Mourners and officials gathered at the city's Salvator Church for an emotional service.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff attended the memorial, which was broadcast on giant screens in a football stadium and a dozen other churches in the western industrial city.

Hannelore Kraft, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia -- the German state where the tragedy happened -- was also present. Fighting back tears, she said her state would do its best to assist the families of those killed.

"Dear relatives, dear mourners. We stand by your side in this difficult time. We commiserate with you. North Rhine-Westphalia will provide quick and bureaucracy-free help to all those affected who need support," Kraft said.

"But we also know we cannot reduce and ease your pain. Still, I ask you to open your hearts to those who wish to give you solace and help you come to terms with the loss of your irreplaceable loved ones. You are not alone."

'Dance Of Death'

Kraft's own 17-year-old son also attended the Love Parade, but was not injured. The memorial ceremony was led by Roman Catholic and Lutheran Protestant clerics, representing Germany's two main denominations.

"The Love Parade became a dance of death," Nikolaus Schneider, the head of the Rhineland Lutheran church assembly, said in his sermon.

Rescue helpers then lit 21 candles, one for each victim of the tragedy.

Those killed were aged 18 to 38 and included foreigners from Spain, Australia, Italy, Bosnia, China, and Holland. More than 500 people were wounded.

The deaths and injuries at the techno music festival occurred during a stampede in an overcrowded entrance tunnel to the festival grounds.

A police report has put much of the blame on Love Parade organizers, accusing them of deploying fewer safety stewards than promised and ignoring safety recommendations by police.

The mayor of Duisburg, Adolf Sauerland, is also under fire for ignoring warnings that the location was inappropriate for the staging of such a large festival. He did not attend the memorial service.

compiled from agency reports