BEIJING: An investigation is underway to find out the trigger for a stampede at a famous waterfront area in Shanghai that left 35 people crushed to death early on Thursday, ending New Year celebrations in tragedy.
President Xi Jinping has ordered a thorough enquiry into the incident, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Nearly 50 people were injured in the midnight stampede in the Bund area of China’s glittering financial center where thousands had gathered to usher in 2015.
The normally crowded Bund, which offers a stunning view of some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers across the Huang Pu river was spilling over with people on Wednesday night when the rush of people was triggered.
Estimates said that at least 300,000 people had turned up for the New Year celebrations on December 31 in 2013.
According to state media, the accident was triggered around midnight at the Chen Yi Square where a countdown show to 2015 was being held.
State media quoted Shanghai Television as saying that the stampede occurred when a large number of people were blocked by a surging crowd while they were trying to move up a flight of stairs to the riverfront area.
“They then started to fall down to the ground and pile up,” the report said.
Some reports said it was triggered when people started running to pick up what looked like money from the rooftop of a nightclub.
“One photo from the scene shared on Weibo showed at least one person doing chest compressions on a shirtless man while several other people lay on the ground nearby, amid debris. Another photo showed the area ringed by police,” state media reported.
The injured were sent to several hospitals in the area. Relatives, it was reported, were rushing from one hospital to the other to find their family members. Some frantically rushed to police neighborhood police booths and stations to track missing family.
Witnesses shared photos of the incident and the aftermath as the news spread all over China’s social networking platforms.
Reports added that the New Year’s Eve countdown show in the past three years was held in an open area at the Bund.
“However, this year it was moved to the Bund Origin, a relative enclosed area, due to safety concerns. About 2,000 visitors would be invited to watch the show,” according to previous reports.
But the number of people who turned up last night far exceeded expectations.
The relocation was “in order to improve traffic flow,” the Huangpu District government said earlier.