Storm kills 3, injures 71 at music festival in Belgium
ASSOCIATED PRESS and STAFF REPORTS August 18, 2011 1:48PM
Updated: August 18, 2011 4:35PM
BRUSSELS — A storm swepts through an open air music festival in eastern Belgium on Thursday killing at least three people and injuring over 70 others, an official said.
Video from the site showed stage equipment dangling in high winds near the town of Hasselt, about 50 miles east of Brussels, as rain-soaked concertgoers at the Pukkelpop music festival ran for cover .
More than 20 ambulances were dispatched to the festival ground outside of Hasselt, a small town in eastern Belgium.
Hugo Simons, Hasselt’s head of emergency planning, told VRT radio that 11 people were severely injured while 60 sustained light injuries as a result of the storm.
Chicago band Smith Westerns were on stage at the time. Lead singer Cullen Omori originally tweeted immediately after the incident that band had escaped unharmed. He had earlier sent out an angry message, later deleted, that the band’s equipment was desroyed.
“Stage collapsed max almost got crushed by the tress. I hope pukkelpop has insurance bc all our s--- is broke,” Omori said in the deleted tweet.
Hilde Claes, Hasselt’s mayor, said those injured are taken to several nearby hospitals. Some of those lightly injured were being treated at a local sports complex.
Chokri Mahassine, the organizer of the festival, said “we have for now put the festival on hold until we understand the situation completely.”
Dutch NOS television reporter Rick Hoogkamp, who was attending the concert, said the sky got dark, winds picked up violently and hailstones pelted those gathered.
He said several tents collapsed. Images of the disaster also showed fallen trees and fallen lighting scaffolds.
The festival’s website lists a number of stages where concerts and performances were to be held during the three-day event, which started Thursday. Reports say some 60,000 people are attending the event.