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Political pressure steamrolled safety fears

The Local · 27 Jul 2010, 08:08

Published: 27 Jul 2010 08:08 GMT+02:00

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Daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the Bundestag MP and Christian Democrats chairman in the Duisburg region, Thomas Mahlberg, wrote to the state government in 2009 calling for the dismissal of the Duisburg police chief after he expressed serious reservations about the Love Parade plans.

Duisburg police announced Monday night that a 21-year-old German woman had succumbed to her injuries in hospital, bringing the death toll to 20.

According to daily Kölnische Rundschau, Mayor Adolf Sauerland signed off on the plan just hours before the parade started – around 9am Saturday.

Even on Friday, the safety plan was still being debated in various meetings, in which the Duisburg fire brigade and police made it clear that the event should not go ahead as planned, the paper reported.

Süddeutsche Zeitung also reported that the Duisburg police had expressed concerns about the safety plan in the run-up to the event, both to the organisers and the city.

“The police in Duisburg made their concerns clear in several workshops and discussions,” an officer told the paper.

The organisers had not responded. But as plans for the event were being negotiated Mahlberg wrote to the former North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Ingo Wolf calling for the dismissal of then Duisburg police chief Rolf Cebin after Cebin expressed deep reservations about the Love Parade plan.

“The Duisburg police have declared there are glaring security flaws standing in the way of holding of the Love Parade,” he wrote. “The result is negative news coverage in the whole republic. The commotion prompts me to ask Duisburg to be relieved of this heavy burden and to chance a new start in the personnel of the police department.”

Cebin retired in May 2010.

The director of the municipal fire brigade had warned Mayor Sauerland in October 2009 in a letter that the old train yard was “not physically adequate” for an event of this size, the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported.

Sauerland told the Rheinische Post, however, that he knew nothing of the various concerns raised.

Story continues below…

“No warnings were made known to me,” he said.

He said there were always conflicting voices when such events were being planned and it was the job of the city government to assess whether the overall plan could be carried out.

“And that’s exactly what we conscientiously did in this case,” he said.

The police union called for the establishment of a safety body that would review major event plans and give them accreditation to go ahead only if the plans were sound.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:20 July 27, 2010 by pepsionice
Before everyone starts jumping into this topic....you might want to ask about every fest and concert planned over the past five years. You might find that the cops questioned at least half of them and wanted major changes...which were vetoed by the local authorities or the political figures.

As far as I am concerned....only the Rock Am Ring is 100 percent safe. But the reason is that it's had years to develop and the same folks run the planning process year after year. After Rock Am Ring....everything else goes from 99 percent down to 1 percent safe.
13:16 July 27, 2010 by JAMessersmith
We have pretty strict regulations in the States, as far as large events like this are concerned. It was well before my time, but back in the 70s, 'The Who' played a concert in Cincinnati and a similar tragedy took place in which concert goers were crushed to death trying to get in to the show. They were playing in an arena with open seating, and whoever was in charge only opened up a few doors (I believe it was 2 or 3 out of 50, or something like that), so thousands of people tried to rush through to get the best seats, which led to a stampede that killed several kids. Ever since then, laws were passed that forbade open seating, and required event organizers to keep as many entrances open as possible. Sounds like that's what went wrong in Duisburg. Of course there is a need to control the number of people going in and out, but when you bottleneck thousands of people all trying to get to the same place, something bad is bound to happen.

I'm not a big fan of government regulation, but when planning is this poor, and things go this awry, it becomes necessary. I mean, this was more or less a massacre, and even though it was unintentional, negligence was to blame. Sounds like the event organizers and city officials knew the location couldn't handle that many people, but went ahead with it anyway... probably because so much money was on the line, and it would've been a hassle to cancel and reschedule. It's just a shame 20 people had to die for those responsible to learn their lesson. I'm sure in retrospect, canceling the event would've been a minor inconvenience in comparison to what happened.
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