The organizers of the "Love Parade" techno music festival in Germany say they do not expect the event will ever be held again after 19 people were killed and some 300 injured in a stampede in an entrance tunnel.
Amateur video shows participants in the Love Parade jumping over security fences and scrambling up a hill next to the overcrowded tunnel in the industrial Ruhr city of Duisberg in western Germany.
"They [were] walking into each other and tried to run up stairs and to climb up [the] flood defense. It was an absolute panic situation," Love Parade participant Alex Dueben told Reuters, adding that he saw people entering as others were trying to get out. "Nothing went forward, nothing went backward. We couldn't do anything."
Police at the former freight rail station used for the parade had tried to close the entrance to the tunnel due to overcrowding shortly before the panic broke out around 5:00 p.m. local time.
They used bullhorns to tell those trying to get in to turn around. But emergency workers said on German television that some still tried to enter the area by climbing over security fences, which fell, and may have caused the panic.
Rescue workers had difficulty reaching the injured. As the crowd dispersed, more amateur video showed emergency workers and parade participants helping others incapacitated on the ground. Some got up dazed, others who had lost consciousness were carried away.
At least 10 people were resuscitated at the scene. Sheets covered bodies lying on the ground at the entrance, which was strewn with shoes, water bottles and rubble.
Officials said about 1.4 million people attended the Love Parade, which has been held in Berlin in previous years.
Organizers didn't cancel the Duisberg event after the deadly stampede because authorities feared a second panic. Many of those inside were unaware of what had happened, and music was still playing hours after the crush.
Chancellor Merkel 'Aghast'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her condolences to the relatives of the victims. "I am aghast and saddened by the sorrow and the pain," she said.
Police have launched an investigation into what happened. The Duisberg mayor has defended security measures for the festival. Hanelore Kraft, the head of the region of North Rhine Westphalia, said the authorities shouldn't jump to conclusions before the results of a full probe into what caused the panic.
"The fact is that there was a bottleneck and they knew about it," Kraft said. "It should have been organized. It will now have to be looked into to find out exactly what happened. We will surely need a few hours and days for this."
The morning after the tragedy, mourners laid flowers and lit candles near the site in tribute to those killed.
With three bodies still to identify, police said there were four foreigners among the dead: an Australian woman, an Italian woman, a Dutch man, and a Chinese man.
The Love Parade began as a peace demonstration in 1989 before it developed into a massive open-air, dance-music festival that features flamboyant outfits and draws top international DJs and participants from around the world.
AP quoted founder Rainer Schaller as saying "It's over for the Love Parade."
"The Love Parade was always a peaceful event and a happy party," he said, according to the agency, adding that the tragedy would forever haunt the event.
compiled from agency reports