Following heavy criticism and concern for safety, organizers of the Belgium music festival Pukkelpop have decided to cancel the three-day festival after three attendees were killed and dozens left injured when a heavy storm caused damage to several stages on opening day.
Initial reports in the Belgian media said four people had been killed.
Smith Westerns’ frontman Cullen Omori were on stage mid set when it began to tear apart. After tweeting emotionally this afternoon, Omari issued the following statement of the days events:
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 1 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.
The Pukkelpop organization decided to cancel all shows Thursday evening after strong winds and heavy rain uprooted trees, tossing lighting rigs aside as fixtures came down and stages collapsed.
Pukkelpop is one of the biggest and most popular open air festivals drawing crowds of 150,000. Acts headlining this year’s event include the Foo Fighter, Eminem and The Offspring.
The Festival initially planned to reopen on Friday, writing on their website: “We will clean up the grounds tonight and ensure that everything is safe again so that we can start tomorrow at 11 am with a new start for Pukkelpop 2011.”
Comments poured in outraged at the organizer’s insensitivity to those who lost their lives or suffered injuries.
Rockschtar wrote:“You as organizers took care of thousands of people and you failed! Hopefully there are some bands that decide not to play.” Losingmyedge said: “The remainder of the event should NOT go ahead. It would be extremely inappropriate,” while docutale concluded, “this will be a travesty for all involved if this festival continues tomorrow! some thing are more important than money.”
Festival organizers canceled the event writing:
Pukkelpop is in deep mourning. We truly sympathize 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 organization have received.
We call on all Pukkelpoppers to return home calmly. Extra buses and trains have been organized to bring everybody home.
Undoubtedly many of you have many practical questions. That is why we ask you to direct them to [email protected]
We ask everyone to understand that this decision was extremely difficult to make.
Reports of death and injury as storm rips through Pukkelpop Music Festival