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Scores of People Trampled to Death During Shanghai New Year's Eve Celebration

Authorities are investigating the incident, which early reports incorrectly suggested was triggered by a rush to collect coupons resembling cash that were thrown from a riverfront building.
Photo via AP/Ng Han Guan

At least 36 New Year's Eve revelers were crushed to death and dozens more injured when a stampede broke out half an hour before midnight on a crowded stretch of riverfront in downtown Shanghai's historic Bund area.

Officials could not immediately determine what triggered the surge of partygoers at Chen Yi Square at the Bund, but early reports suggested that a confetti of nightclub coupons flung from the third-story window of a nearby building prompted a mad scramble for what appeared to be cash.


"It's too cruel," Cui Tingting, 27, who initially grabbed at the coupons but tossed them aside after discovering they were not dollar bills, told the South China Morning Post. "People in front of us had already fallen to the floor and others were stepping all over them."

But police later clarified that the coupons had in fact been flung after the stampede had occurred. The initial cause remains unclear, but accounts now focus on chaos ensuing as masses of people crowded onto a raised platform in order to better view a New Year's Eve light show. In the dense struggle for space, anxiety might have spread through the crowd.

"I heard people screaming, someone fell, people shouted 'don't rush,' " another unnamed witness in her 20s told the Associated Press. "There were so many people and I couldn't stand properly."

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Xia Shujie, vice president of the Shanghai No. 1 People's Hospital, told reporters that some revelers had died from suffocation. At least 47 others were injured, many of whom were college students in their 20s, Xinhua said. State broadcaster CCTV News reported that the youngest victim was 16 years old.

PHOTO: Relatives wait for information about loved ones at Shanghai hospital after fatal stampede: — The Associated Press (@AP)January 1, 2015

Family members gathered outside the hospital early on Thursday, desperately seeking information about their relatives, but were held back by security and police who barricaded the entryway with a bench before eventually being allowed to enter the building. At least seven of those injured had been discharged from hospitals by Thursday afternoon, the AP reported.


One injured witness describes what happened at the moment.

All New Year's Eve celebrations were immediately cancelled as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang instructed authorities to "do everything in their power" to assist the injured and investigate the cause of the tragedy.

Authorities are still investigating the incident, and have so far identified at least 33 of those wounded. Two Taiwanese and a Malaysian citizen are believed to be among the injured, while anther Taiwan resident is among the dead.

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— CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews)January 1, 2015

The Bund area, characterized by narrow laneways and restored historical buildings, is a popular tourist destination in the Asian financial hub, and often plays host to large events. With a population of more than 14 million people, Shanghai is the largest city proper in the world, and crowd control issues have been a concern for authorities whenever large crowds gather in the area, like last night.

Local media reported last week that the annual New Year's Eve countdown celebration at the Bund, which was expected to bring 300,000 people to the waterfront, was cancelled due to safety concerns, to be replaced by a smaller "toned-down" version of the event.

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4 work teams set up to deal with aftermath including investigation after the Shanghai Bund — CCTVNEWS (@cctvnews)January 1, 2015

Police have admitted they had underestimated the number of people that would attend the event. A district police commander, Cai Lixin, told reporters Thursday that 500 officers had been dispatched to assist with crowd dispersal and rescue the injured.

"The city should immediately examine its schedules of large events, especially events in densely populated areas," Shanghai Communist Party secretary Han Zheng was quoted as saying in Xinhua. "All those that should be stopped must be stopped."

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