One dead and over forty injured at Medusa Festival in Cullera
Strong winds tore down several parts of the stage
ValenciaA 22 year old young man from the town of Daimiel in La Mancha died this Saturday during the Medusa Festival in Cullera (Ribera Baixa), after strong winds knocked down one of the stages and the structure to access the enclosure, including a large sign. In total, over forty people have suffered injuries of varying degrees, such as polytrauma and contusions. Of these, 32 have required some kind of hospital care, and five have been hospitalised. The most seriously injured is a 19-year-old woman with a fractured spine who is awaiting surgery. Two more women, aged 19 and 20, suffered a fractured tibia and pelvis, and another also suffered a fracture. The Valencian government's Health Department has not provided data on the fifth person admitted.
The accident occurred at around four in the morning, when a strong sandstorm broke out on the site where the electronic music festival was taking place, next to Cullera's beach. The chaos generated by the wind would have caused the disbelief of many attendees, who, according to witnesses reported by the agency Efe, defined the moment as more typical of "the movie Jumanji" than of a music festival. Another young woman explained that they were dancing when, "suddenly, things started to fall to the ground", in an episode that "did not last more than 15 minutes".
Some attendees denounce that the festival should have been suspended a couple of hours earlier, when part of the central stage fell. This occurred as a result of a small dry downburst that occurred during Steve Aoki's performance, scheduled from 8.30 pm but which ended before 10 pm.
On the evacuation of the enclosure, the young attendees have offered several versions. While some have explained that they were able to leave "very calmly and without problems" because "they followed the flow of people" to the main entrance, others described the moment as "chaotic" because "nothing" was controlled by the organisation.
The Guardia Civil has defended that the evacuation was a "success". This was stated by Captain José Vicente Ruiz, who highlighted the fact that nearly 50,000 people left the site in only "40 minutes". Only those staying at the campsite, with a capacity for 12,000 people, remained. Ruiz confirmed that there were "virulent and unforeseen gusts of wind" and that 21 people were treated in the field hospital itself, nine of whom were later transferred to hospital. He also explained that some of the injured were transported in private vehicles.
To journalists' questions, Ruiz has confirmed that the facilities "passed the necessary technical controls to obtain the authorisation", which has neem corroborated by Cullera mayor Jordi Mayor, who has assured that the festival had "all the permissions and administrative guarantees". On the other hand, Valencian minister for Justice, Interior and Public Administration Gabriela Bravo has defended that the red alert decreed in some regions of the Valencian Country was mainly due to the heat wave and that the "hurricane-strength winds" were expected in the interior but not on the coast.
A downburst with gusts of 100 km/h
Behind the strong winds recorded in Cullera is a phenomenon known as a downburst. This occurs when moisture-laden clouds collide with extremely dry air masses. No significant rainfall is recorded because the water evaporates before reaching the ground due to the heat, but the air cools quickly and, as it weighs more than the hot air below, collapses to the ground in a few seconds and expands horizontally at high speed. One of its consequences is large increases in temperature on the surface and very strong gusts of winds, which sometimes exceed 100 km/h. This is a phenomenon which, although not new, has increased in frequency due to climate change and a greater number of heat waves.
Cullera's Medusa Festival began on Wednesday with small-format performances and was expected to receive more than 300,000 visitors by Sunday, with the bigger concerts playing at the weekend. Among participating artists were Steve Aioki, Timmy Trumpet, Michael Bibi or Carl Cox.
The organisers have cancelled the festival and have expressed their desolation through a press release. "We are totally dismayed at what happened early this morning". They also wanted to express their "deep and sincere condolences to the family and friends for the [accident's] fatal consequences".
The president of the Generalitat Valenciana, Ximo Puig, has also conveyed his condolences to the deceased's family and friends and has lamented the "terrible accident" which, as he wrote on his Twitter account, "shocks us all." Puig added that he is following the evolution of the injured closely.