Germany pays tribute to Love Parade dead

A MEMORIAL service was held for the 21 victims of the Love Parade festival in Germany yesterday.

The ceremony in Duisburg's Salvator church came a week after people attending the techno music event were crushed to death and 500 injured in a tunnel which was the only way in.

Sombre organ music was played and the service was shown on screens in a football stadium and a dozen other churches in the western city which hosted the festival.

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Several German TV stations carried the service live, and flags across the country flew at half-mast.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and president Christian Wulff attended. Family members of the victims were also present.

The 21 people who died were aged 18 to 38 and included visitors from Spain, Australia, Italy, Bosnia, China and the Netherlands. The ceremony was led by Roman Catholic and Lutheran Protestant clerics - representing Germany's two main denominations.

"The Love Parade was danced to death," Nikolaus Schneider, the head of the Rhineland Lutheran church assembly, said in his sermon. "In the middle of a celebration of lust for life, death showed its ugly face to all of us."

Franz-Josef Overbeck, the Catholic bishop of the neighbouring city of Essen, said: "Life can be so oppositional: One moment there is a party, the next moment we are lying helplessly on the ground."

After the sermons, rescue helpers lit 21 candles for the victims of the tragedy.

Anger had been building in recent days, with over 250 people protesting in Duisburg last Thursday and demanding the resignation of the city's mayor, Adolf Sauerland.

They blame Sauerland and the city's authorities for failing to plan for the event. Private organisers also have come under fire for allegedly trying to squeeze as many as 1.4 million revellers into too small a space and for restricting access.