New Year's stampede kills 36 in Shanghai as massive holiday approaches

Bloomberg

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China demanded a review of crowd-safety procedures as dozens of people remain in Shanghai’s hospitals after a deadly stampede on New Year’s Eve killed 36 and caused the cancellation of celebrations across the city.
At least 47 people were injured, including 40 still serious enough to required hospitalization, the Shanghai government said on its website. The stampede -- the city’s deadliest disaster since 2010 -- started about 11:35 p.m. on New Year’s Eve as tens of thousands of people crowded into the historic Bund riverside district for a light show.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered an investigation and told local governments to prioritize safety ahead of the mass celebrations for the Lunar New Year holidays next month. The China National Tourism Administration issued an emergency notice last night requiring its local offices to establish procedures to control crowd flows at tourist spots.
Two days after the stampede in the metropolis of 23 million, families and friends of those injured remained at hospitals after spending a frantic day yesterday seeking news in the aftermath of the chaos.
“My friend got her arm broken in the stampede,” Lu Ying, a 21-year-old restaurant worker who was at Shanghai No.1 People’s Hospital, the largest near the Bund, said today. Liu, who declined to provide the name of her friend, said that the two were separated by the massive crowds.
Shanghai party secretary Han Zheng said yesterday the municipality would review the planning of large events, especially those in densely crowded places, according to a statement posted on its official microblog.
Malaysian victim
At least three New Year’s events were canceled yesterday, including a 3-kilometer “charity” run and a light show scheduled for the city’s downtown area, according to the websites of the Xinmin Evening News and the Shanghai government.
Shanghai officials had earlier canceled a public countdown event in the Bund area along the Huangpu River, according to a Dec. 31 Shanghai Morning Post report posted on the city’s website.
A Malaysian national was among those killed, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The victim was a university student, and efforts are under way to contact relatives, according to a statement from the ministry that didn’t identify the person. The dead, many of whom were students, included one Taiwanese, CCTV said on Twitter.
Profound lesson
A profound lesson should be learned from the stampede incident as many places will hold festival gatherings and recreational activities for the Lunar New Year and the following Lantern Festival, Xi was cited as saying by the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The lunar holiday officially starts Feb. 18 and lasts a week.
At Shanghai No. 1 People’s Hospital yesterday, a student who declined to give his name said he was visiting from Hangzhou with classmates and saw the stampede, which he said started on stairs to a pedestrian platform along the river. He said he saw people fall and lost sight of his friend but found the friend’s phone.
Tens of thousands had flocked to the Bund to see a light show put on by the Oriental Pearl Tower across the river.
“It was about 10 times as crowded as usual,” Zhang Ying, a flower seller who was near the site at the time of the accident and saw ambulances arrive, said at Chen Yi Square. “I couldn’t even get to the Bund side of the road as people were just jam-packed.”
Chaotic atmosphere
Around 11:20-11:30 p.m. there was an unusual surge in the size of the crowd with people unable to move, China National Radio reported, citing a briefing by the Huangpu district police. About 500 police officers were dispatched to the area, police were cited as saying.
One person in the crowd said the atmosphere turned chaotic after what appeared to be money started falling from above -- bar coupons that looked like U.S. dollar bills thrown from a building window across from the square, Xinhua reported. People rushed toward the building and some fell over in the scramble, it said. The coupons were flung after the stampede had already occurred, the Shanghai police said on its microblog today.
The reason for the accident was under investigation, according to staff at the Shanghai government media office who asked not to be identified when contacted by Bloomberg News.
Peace hotel
The site of the stampede is across from the Peace Hotel, one of the many pre-World War II buildings that run along the Bund, Shanghai’s most popular sightseeing spot.
The disaster was the city’s deadliest since a high-rise apartment building fire in 2010 that left 58 people dead. Inadequate surveillance and shoddy work standards in the city’s construction industry were the cause of that inferno, according to then-Shanghai Mayor Han, who has since been promoted to the city’s party secretary.
In Hong Kong, on New Year’s Eve 1993, 20 people, mostly teenagers, died and 71 were injured in a stampede in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district, the South China Morning Post reported.

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