Five dead after storm strikes Belgian pop festival

HASSELT, Belgium Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:10am EDT

1 of 3. Police officers look at the wreckage of a tent which collapsed following a heavy storm at the Pukkelpop outdoor music festival near Hasselt, northern Belgium, August 18, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Sebastien Pirlet

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HASSELT, Belgium (Reuters) - The death toll has risen to five at a Belgian pop festival struck by a fierce storm that knocked down screens and collapsed tents, officials said on Friday.

A further eight festival-goers were seriously injured and Hilde Claes, mayor of the eastern Belgian city of Hasselt told Belgian television that some 65 people had more minor injuries.

Some 60,000 to 65,000 mainly young people were attending the sold-out festival when the storm struck early in the evening. Many were sheltering in large festival tents, which were whipped away by the wind.

"The storm struck in an incredibly sudden way," said Claes, who was there. "It was a real whirlwind. I have never seen anything like it in Hasselt before."

The three-day Pukkelpop festival was set to have featured rapper Eminem and U.S. bands Foo Fighters and The Offspring.

Organizers decided early on Friday to cancel the rest of the festival.

The Belgian disaster comes just five days after five people died when an outdoor concert stage collapsed in heavy winds at the Indiana State Fair in the United States.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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