At least 15 people died at the Love Parade music festival in Germany today when they were crushed inside a tunnel during a stampede caused by panic.
Nine women and six men were among the dead, according to police. A further 10 people had to be resuscitated, while about 100 people were injured.
The disaster happened when revellers took a short cut through a tunnel that was too narrow to cope with the crowds.
An estimated 1.4 million people took part in the world's largest techno music festival, taking place in the western city of Duisburg for the first time. Most of the ravers continued to dance into the early evening, unaware of the tragedy that had occurred.
Officials decided not to inform the crowd about the incident, saying it was safer to let the event continue rather than create even more panic.
Scuffles began to break out in the late afternoon when thousands of angry people entered the tunnel to get easier access to the overcrowded festival grounds after being told by police at the entrance to the event that it was closed due to overcapacity. Police said the passageway quickly turned into a bottleneck. Those inside panicked and a stampede ensued.
Kevin Krausgartner, 21, from Wuppertal, who was in the tunnel when panic broke out, told Welt Online of the "gruesome scenes" he had witnessed. "I've never seen anything like it," he said. "There were 25 people lying in a heap. I screamed – people could no longer get any air. I saw dead people, and one person was sitting there looking extremely pale. I wanted to give him some water, but the ambulance medic told me there was no point as he was already dead." Krausgarnter said he saw police "standing on the bridge and doing nothing".
An 18-year-old identified only as Marius, told Bild newspaper: "There were no escape possibilities. People were standing right next to me, rigid as a wall. I was really scared I'd die."
There were signs earlier in the day that Duisburg was finding it hard to cope with the sheer numbers of fans trying to get to the event, which took place on a disused goods train depot on the outskirts of the industrial city.
Before the crush, visitors had began spilling out beyond the grounds, which were surrounded with wire fencing, and on to the A59 highway, which had been closed to traffic but kept open for emergency vehicles. In the event, ambulances had difficulty reaching the grounds due to the number of people who had spilled on to the road to escape overcrowding.
Police chief Jürgen Kieskemper described the scenes as "utter chaos", and said: "We have to get to the bottom of what actually happened here."
The Love Parade is one of the most popular music events in the world, celebrating electronic dance music and priding itself as a peaceful event. It began in Berlin in 1989, inspired by the spirit of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in its heyday in the 1990s attracted as many as 1.6 million people from around the world.
Questions had been asked as to whether Duisburg, a city of 500,000, was capable of holding such a large event, which suited Berlin, where crowds spilled across its wide avenues and into parks, preventing overcrowding.