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19th August 2011


The Pukkelpop Festival in Hasselt, Belgium was battered by a rain and hail storm on Thursday, killing at least three people and apparently injuring dozens more.

You can see a local news video of the storm's initial aftermath showing stage equipment dangling in high winds with festival goers running for cover. Huge audio towers appear toppled in the footage.

Initial Belgian reports say that the storm caused a large tent collapsed and the roof of another flew away, that big screens have fallen and several trees were uprooted in the violent rain and wind. According to a source, at least one tree fell onto a stage and another crushed a food stand. The muddy ground kept two cranes from reaching the tent.

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The festival has now been cancelled. "Pukkelpop is in deep mourning," organisers said in a statement. "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."

The Chicago indie band Smith Westerns were on one of the side stages when the storms rolled through and frontman Cullen Omori said in a statement (via Pitchfork);

"We had just finished the first song of our set at Pukkelpop when the stage/tent started shaking and simply thought it was a storm passing through. I made a comment about Cheap Trick and we were about to play the next one when our tour manager yelled at me to run off the stage.

"Right then the tress collapsed one foot in front of [guitarist] Max [Kakacek]. At this point we thought only the stage broke, not the tent. Amid the chaos it was hard to tell exactly what had happened, but after the rescue teams started coming in it became clear that there were severe injuries and we are now being told there are reports of multiple deaths.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones in today's tragedy."

This festival tragedy comes less than a week after the deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Five people died Saturday when a gust of wind toppled the stage in Indianapolis, just moments before headliners Sugarland was about to perform.

Some readers may find this video footage disturbing.


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