Three dead as storm hits festival
A storm swept through a popular open-air music festival in this town in eastern Belgium on Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 70 others, an official said.
Ambulances and police cars raced to and from the site of the Pukkelpop festival, near the town of Hasselt, 50 miles east of Brussels, late on Thursday, their sirens blaring. Concertgoers described scenes of panic as the sky darkened, the winds whipped, rain poured, hailstones nearly half an inch (larger than 1 centimeter) across pelted the crowds, and concert structures buckled.
Hugo Simons, Hasselt's head of emergency medical planning, told VRT radio that three people had died, 11 had been severely injured and 60 had sustained light injuries as a result of the storm.
Organizers estimated that 60,000 people were at the three-day festival, which started Thursday, when the storm broke. Many were streaming out of the grounds after the storm, which turned the festival site into a scene of mud and destruction within about 10 minutes.
Video from the site showed stage equipment dangling in high winds as rain-soaked concertgoers at the music festival ran for cover. Trees and branches all around the area were downed, evidence of the sudden ferocity of the winds.
Ambulances ferried the seriously injured to nearby hospitals. Some of those lightly injured were being treated at a local sports complex. More than 20 ambulances were dispatched to the festival ground.
Images of the disaster showed fallen lighting scaffolds. Dutch NOS television reporter Rick Hoogkamp, who was attending the concert Thursday, said several tents collapsed. An AP reporter saw concession stands blown down and a large food tent spread across the ground.
Two cranes were brought in to try to lift the large tent late Thursday, but the ground appeared too swamped for them to reach the area.
Chokri Mahassine, the organizer of the festival, said, "We have for now put the festival on hold until we understand the situation completely."
The three-day festival's lineup features acts including Foo Fighters, Eminem and The Offspring.