Jul 27, 2010

How death struck the love party in Duisburg

THEY danced and sang like the children of Hamelin following the Pied Piper: the grimy west German town of Duisburg had rarely seen such a spectacle. 

Almost a million Love Parade revellers, many in pink wigs, red hearts on their nipples, bare-chested in the heat, wound their way from the rail station - and into a death trap.
Germany has been left shocked by the events that left at least 19 people dead, including an Australian woman, and 340 injured. It was "the party from hell", one local policeman said.

The arguments have already started. Who was to blame? How could Germany betray its youth?
The Love Parade, an orgy of loud music and extravagant attire, has been staged in Germany since 1989, and was the world's largest techno party. It was a rare moment when young Germans could celebrate en masse and take party drugs in public. The only condition was that it should be free of violence and well organised.
That changed suddenly on Saturday, when the festival turned into a crazed and deadly stampede. Following the disaster, one of the organisers, Rainer Schaller, announced yesterday this would be the last Love Parade.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the cause of the tragedy, but much is already clear.
Travelling in 700 special trains, the ravers descended on Duisburg on Saturday. On offer was a full night of techno, trance and house music. The 16 motorised floats full of dancers had made their way to the main performance site, a former railway marshalling yard a 30-minute walk from the main station.

Yesterday, the route looked as if it had been ravaged by an undisciplined army.
"I ordered in 9000 extra cans of beer and 1000 cans of alcopops," said Nejat Morkan, cleaning up his kiosk. "They drank like fish before they went to the party, but by the time they came back, nobody wanted to celebrate anything."
The performance site was 230,000sq m in size. Had the crowd been 300,000 or even half a million, that might have been sufficient. But as ravers were warned on the internet days in advance, a million were on the way.
The festival had authorisation for 250,000 revellers instead of the 1.4 million the organisers said attended, the German magazine Spiegel reported yesterday.
"The organisation was very bad," said Patrick Guenter, a 22-year-old baker.
"Quickly there was nothing to drink apart from alcohol, and although the festival was full, they kept letting people in."
MadCat, a German blogger, wrote four days before the disaster: "People are going to be like sardines in a can . . . If panic should break out, then people will die. I'm not going to let my children go."
When Berlin staged the Love Parade in the 1990s, the swelling crowds could spill over into the nearby Tiergarten park.
But the Duisburg site was surrounded by high fencing. "There have been serious management blunders," said Dr Motte, a Berlin disc jockey and a founder of the Love Parade event.
Wolfgang Orscheschek, deputy chief of the German police union, said: "Planning was sacrificed for material reasons."
But Wolfgang Rabe, Duisburg's security co-ordinator, rejected the criticism, saying the number of revellers was exaggerated and the 1200 police were adequate.
Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland defended what he said was a "solid security plan".
The core problem was that the revellers had to pass through a single long railway tunnel to enter the compound. Hundreds of thousands who packed into the poorly ventilated tunnel became stuck for well over an hour.
At the tunnel entrance, some youths tried to scramble up an escarpment. A few tumbled backwards off ladders and fell into the crowd. This appears to have triggered mass panic.
Many people were already fainting because of dehydration, and they too were lying on the ground as the crowd surged forwards and backwards. Doctors reported many punctured lungs and damaged livers and kidneys among the dead and injured.
The Times, AFP

Miscarriages affect men too

  Many men suffer emotionally when their partner miscarries, but they recover more quickly from their distress than women do, new research suggests.

Not too long ago, experts thought that a man didn't bond with his unborn child, and that miscarriages didn't affect men. While several investigators have since reported that men also report feelings of loss, sadness, and helplessness, it's not clear how severe their distress is, or how long it lasts.

To investigate, Dr. Grace Kong of Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong and colleagues followed 83 couples for one year after a miscarriage. They used two tests to gauge levels of psychological distress in both men and women: the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). None of the study participants had a history of mental illness.

Immediately after the miscarriage occurred, the researchers found, more than 40 per cent of the men were suffering significant psychological distress, as measured by the GHQ-12. By three months, however, just 7 per cent reported this level of distress, and at one year, 5 per cent of the men did.

But among the women, 52 per cent had significant distress immediately after miscarriage, over 20 per cent did three months later, 14 per cent did at six months, and 8 per cent reported distress one year later.

Findings were similar with the BDI: immediately after the miscarriage, 26 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men had high levels of depression; three months later, 12 per cent of women and 7 per cent of men were depressed. One year later, 10 per cent of women and 7 per cent of men still had significant depressive symptoms.

Women in more troubled marriages were more likely to be depressed after miscarrying, as were those who had seen the fetal heartbeat on ultrasound before losing the pregnancy.

But the only factor that independently predicted whether or not a man would become depressed was whether the pregnancy had been planned. A planned pregnancy was a significant risk factor for high levels of depression soon after the event.

The study also found that men were more likely to be optimistic about the possibility of future pregnancies than women were; this may have had something to do with their lower levels of emotional distress, the researchers say.

The results, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggest that the psychological impact of miscarriage on men is "less intense and enduring" than on women, the researchers note.

Because both partners were most distressed immediately after miscarriage, Kong and her team say any interventions to help these couples should occur soon after the pregnancy loss