Pukkelpop Death Toll Rises to Five, Organizers Cancel Festival
Pukkelpop Death Toll Rises to Five, Organizers Cancel Festival

BRUSSELS - The death toll rose to five and 75 injuries as a result of a fierce storm that hit the Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium yesterday causing three stage tents to collapse.

At 5.00 a.m. this morning, the organizers decided to cancel the rest of the festival out of respect for the victims and those mourning.

The public has bee advised to leave the campsites and extra busses and trains are being ordered to evacuate the 40,000 remaining concertgoers.

On Thursday (August 18) at approximately 6:30 p.m., the festival and campground in Kiewit, Belgium, near the town of Hasselt roughly 50 miles east of Brussels, was hit with a massive rain and hailstorm that damaged three stages (The Chateau Tent, Boiler Room and Wablieft Tent) and the festival's infrastructure as trees fell and debris swirled about.

Ambulances and cranes were called to the scene for help. The injured were brought to the Hasselt hospital, others to the Kiewit Sports complex for treatment. One festivalgoer said the cell phone network was completely jammed adding to the confusion.

The A.P. reported that officials said at a joint press conference on Friday with Hilde Claes, the mayor Hasselt and festival organizer Chokri Mahassin that meteorologists did not predict a storm of that intensity. "I have seen many tropical storms, Mahassine said, "but this was unprecedented."

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme offered condolences to the families of the victims and said authorities would continue to provide assistance in caring for the injured.

The city of Hasselt has issued an emergency information number 011-32-11-23 97 11.

This year's Pukkelpop was scheduled to run Aug 18-2. It is Belgium's largest alternative music festival with over 220 acts playing on eight stages with an attendance of 60,000. The Foo Fighters, Eminem and the Offpsring were set to headline on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively; acts confirmed for Thursday included Thirty Seconds to Mars, James Blake, Explosions in the Sky and Panic! at the Disco. This year's festival was sold out.

The Pukkelpop stage collapse is the latest of at least three other similar accidents to occur this summer at outdoor concerts. In July, the stage at the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest fell while the band Cheap Trick was on stage; on August 8 a lighting rig fell before a Flaming Lips gig in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and this past Sunday, five were killed at the Indiana State Fair when wind brought down the stage before the band Sugarland was set to perform. The rash of stage collapses this summer has led to many in the industry to call for greater regulation.