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Death toll at Belgian festival rises to five

Last Updated: Friday, August 19, 2011 - 22:59

Hasselt: Young people screamed and fled in panic as a fierce thunderstorm shredded huge canvas tents and brought down metal scaffolding at an open-air
festival in Belgium, killing at least five people.

Hasselt Mayor Hilde Claes on Friday said, that two more people had died, bringing the toll from the last night`s disaster to five. About 140 were injured in the storm, 10 of them seriously, she said. All the dead were Belgians.

"We were dancing away and it (the shelter) caved in the middle and people were screaming and running away," one sodden young woman told a television news channel.

Organisers cancelled the annual Pukkelpop festival near Hasselt, 80 kilometres east of Brussels and pressed fleets of buses and trains into service to send the 60,000 festival goers home.

The brief, violent thunderstorm toppled the poles of several concert tents and left them in tatters, flapping in the wind. It also downed several trees and the scaffolding for the main stage, where rows of concert lights swung wildly
before crashing down.

Video showed panicked concert-goers crawling out from under the downed tents and running through fields of mud looking for shelter.

"There are still three patients in critical condition fighting for their lives," Dr Pascal Vranckx of Jessa Hospital in Hasselt told reporters. He said many of the injured were hit on the head by flying or falling debris.

After the storm, thousands of mud-splattered young people, many of them shoeless, trekked down the avenue from the festival to train and bus stations in Hasselt.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, August 19, 2011 - 22:59
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