Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Hasn't Merkel Visited the Site of the Duisburg Disaster?

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been conspicuous by her absence from the site of Saturday's Love Parade disaster. Her presence would have been a much-needed show of solidarity with the people of Duisburg as local officials refuse to accept responsiblity. In other countries, government leaders would not have stayed away.

On Sunday, the day after 20 people were crushed to death and over 500 injured in a stampede at the Love Parade in Duisburg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the opera in Bayreuth. It is true that tickets for the annual Wagner festival are notoriously hard to come by, but she would have been better advised to skip Act I and travel to the site of the disaster.

Merkel is in good company. Christian Wulff, the largely ceremonial president narrowly elected last month, hasn't seen fit to break off his vacation either to spend a few minutes at the deadly tunnel where young people from Germany and six other countries died in agony. A shrine of flowers and cards has since been placed there by thousands of mourners.

Both have said they will attend a memorial ceremony to be held on Saturday. But that is too late, and the distant messages of condolence they have issued so far aren't enough.

The physical presence of Germany's national leaders was urgently needed at this site of national tragedy, not just to express mourning but, more importantly, to show solidarity with the people of Duisburg who must be feeling utterly abandoned at the moment.

The amateurish organization of the event -- having a single entrance and exit point through a tunnel and grossly underestimating the size of the crowd -- is startling for a first-world country, especially one like Germany which prides itself on its safety standards and capacity for organization.

To read more:,1518,708711,00.html

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