As we first reported on Thursday night, tragedy has struck in Hasselt, Belgium. Following a fierce thunderstorm that destroyed tents, scaffolding and infrastructure and uprooted trees, the death toll at Pukkelpop, an annual open-air music festival, has risen to five. Billboard has more:
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)...
Russia Today has video of the incident:
The Associated Press has raw video of the aftermath of the accident:
According to Hasselt Mayor Hilde Claes, the violent storm left about 140 people injured, 10 of them seriously. Buses and trains were pressed into service to transfer the 60,000 festival goers home.
Thousands of mud-splattered young people, many of them shoeless, trekked down the avenue leading from the festival venue to train and bus stations in Hasselt. Many had stayed on in the camping ground in the vain hope that the performances would continue on Friday.
Chokri Mahassine, the organizer of the annual festival that was first held in 1985, said he had never seen anything like it. "I have seen many tropical storms, but this was unprecedented," he told journalists.
Following the stage collapses and subsequent deaths, he said he canceled the event "out of respect for the victims, their relatives and friends we felt that the concert could not continue."
The three-day festival's lineup featured internationally known acts, including Foo Fighters, Eminem and The Offspring. On Friday morning, the organizers of the festival issued a statement, reading:
Pukkelpop is in deep mourning. We truly sympathise with the families and friends of the victims.
Words are not enough. We have struggled with the decision to continue the festival. Therefore we have decided to cancel Pukkelpop 2011.
What has happened is very exceptional and could not have been predicted. We are deeply moved by all the spontaneous support the festival goers and the organisation have received.
"This is the blackest day that any Belgian festival has experienced," Mahassine said. "I would not wish this on anybody."
At a joint news conference Friday, Hasselt officials and festival organizers described weather conditions at the event's opening day as exceptional. They said weather forecasters in the area had not predicted a storm of that intensity.
The Belgian weather service did not provide the speed of the wind, saying only that the storm was "violent." See more of the footage, here:
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.
This was the second deadly incident at an outdoor festival in a week. On Saturday, parts of a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis, killing five people and injuring dozens, when winds of up to 60 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour) to 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers per hour) hit the site.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.