US: At least eight killed in crush at Astroworld music festival

Rapper Travis Scott says he is ‘devastated’ by deaths and injuries at opening day of music festival in Houston, Texas.

Travis Scott performs at day one of the Astroworld Festival [Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

At least eight people were killed and dozens injured during the first night of rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.

The performer, who created and launched the event in 2018, said he was devastated by Friday’s incident and promised “total support” to the police.

“I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival,” Scott wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “Love You All.”

Houston fire chief Samuel Pena said the incident occurred when the audience began to crowd around the stage at about 9:15pm local time (12:15 GMT) during Scott’s performance. Pena said people then began to pass out from not being able to breathe.

Some 50,000 people were in attendance at the festival.

“It happened all at once. It seemed like it just happened … over the course of just a few minutes,” said Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite.

“Suddenly we had several people down on the ground, experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or some type of medical episode,” he added.

Officials transported 17 people to the hospital, including 11 who were in cardiac arrest, Pena said. Many people were also treated at the scene at NRG Park, where a field hospital had been set up.

Scott stopped multiple times during his 75-minute performance when he spotted fans in distress near the stage, a video posted online showed. He asked security to make sure they were safe. Emergency vehicles, lights and alarms flashing, cut through the audience several times.

“We need somebody to help. Somebody passed out right here,” Scott said, according to video of his set, which included a guest appearance by Canadian rapper Drake. “Security, somebody, jump in here real quick.”

Images on social media showed a heavy emergency personnel presence at the scene. Police said they were reviewing video footage of the arena.

The sold-out event was meant to run for two nights and featured acts such as Drake, Young Thug, Tame Impala and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Organisers and Scott were both cooperating with the police.

“We are focused on supporting local officials however we can,” festival organiser Live Nation Entertainment, said on Twitter.

It also said it was cancelling the second day of performances.

Travis Scott performs at the Astroworld Festival shortly before eight people died [Amy Harris/The Associated Press]

Authorities said a reunification centre had been set up at a nearby hotel for those who have not heard from loved ones following the incident.

Earlier in the day, crowds at the festival had rushed to a VIP area, knocking over fences and reportedly trampling some people who fell but no serious injuries were reported at the time.

The tragedy harkens back to a 1979 concert by British rock band The Who in which 11 people were killed when fans stampeded into the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati before the event.

Scott came to fame in the early 2010s for his unique vocal style. Astroworld is also the name of his third studio album released in 2018 to critical acclaim.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies