Thirty-six people were killed in a stampede during a New Year’s celebration in Shanghai’s famous waterfront area. The event is now being considered the worst disaster to hit one of China’s showcase cities in recent years.
On Wednesday, a crowd gathered for the New Year’s celebration by Chen Yi Square in Shanghai’s popular riverfront Bund area, an avenue lined with Art Deco buildings from the 1920s and 1930s. But about half an hour before midnight the scene had turned into a chaotic stampede. Panicked revelers began pushing in all directions, crushing people and stepping on those who fell.
Steps lead down from the square to a road across from several buildings.
“We were down the stairs and wanted to move up and those who were upstairs wanted to move down, so we were pushed down by the people coming from upstairs,” an injured man told Shanghai TV, according to Lonely Planet. “All those trying to move up fell down on the stairs.”
Afterwards, people were unable to contact friends and relatives; many streamed into hospitals on Thursday, desperate for any information relating to their loved ones who were at the scene.
Photo Courtesy of mirror.co.uk
A total of 36 people were killed, while the Shanghai government said 47 other people needed hospital treatment, including 13 who were seriously injured. Many of those who died were young women; the youngest victim was 12 years old.
Xia Shujie, vice president of Shanghai No 1 People’s Hospital, told reporters that some of the victims had been suffocated.
CCTV America, the US version of state broadcaster China Central Television, posted a video of Shanghai streets after the chaos, which showed piles of discarded shoes amid the debris.
Some are blaming the tragic event on the millions of migrants that government officials allowed to move out of China’s rural villages and into the city neighborhood, according to Quartz.
“Blame the silly officials who don’t control the population of the migrants,” a blogger on the Chinese microblog Weibo stated (registration required), claiming that those crowding the area were mostly non-Shanghainese.
The police expressed remorse over the fact that they failed to “effectively intervene” when the flow of people in the area “increased irregularly,” stat-run news agency Xinhua reported.
According to BBC, Cai Lixin, a deputy police commander, said in quotes carried by Chinese media that there had been fewer police sent out to the square than for some other events.
“There were no formal events planned yesterday, so we did not arrange for as many police officers as last year’s national day,” he said.