Crushed and suffocated, 36 killed in Shanghai

Police hold back the crowds as paramedics tend to the injured in Shanghai's deadly New Year's Eve stampede. Picture: Getty
Police hold back the crowds as paramedics tend to the injured in Shanghai's deadly New Year's Eve stampede. Picture: Getty
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PEOPLE unable to contact friends and relatives streamed into Shanghai hospitals yesterday, desperate for information after a stampede during New Year celebrations in the city’s historic waterfront area killed 36 people.

In the worst disaster to hit the city in recent years, the Shanghai authorities said 47 others were treated in hospital, including 13 who were seriously injured.

Seven of the injured left hospitals by yesterday afternoon.

One Taiwanese was among the dead, and two Taiwanese and one Malaysian were among injured.

The deaths and injuries occurred at Chen Yi Square in Shanghai’s riverfront Bund area, an avenue lined with Art Deco buildings from the 1920s and 1930s when Shanghai was home to international banks and trading houses.

At one of the hospitals where the injured were being treated, police brought out photos of unidentified dead victims, causing dozens of waiting relatives to crowd around. Not everyone could see, then young women who looked at the photos broke into tears when they recognised someone.

A saleswoman in her twenties, who declined to give her name, said she had been celebrating with three friends. She said: “I heard people screaming. Someone fell, People shouted ‘Don’t rush!’ There were so many people and I couldn’t stand properly.” She added that she still could not contact one of her friends.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted a woman with the surname Yin who was caught with her 12-year-old son in the middle of crowds pushing to go up and down steps leading from the square.

“Then people started to fall down, row by row,” Ms Yin said. When her son was finally brought to safety, he had shoeprints over his clothes. “His forehead was bruised, he had two deep creased scars on his neck, and his mouth and nose were bleeding,” she added.

Xia Shujie, vice-president of Shanghai No1 People’s Hospital, told reporters that some of the victims had suffocated.

Relatives desperately seeking information earlier tried to push past hospital guards, who used a bench to hold them back. Police later allowed family members into the hospital.

The broadcaster CCTV America posted a video of Shanghai streets after the stampede, showing piles of discarded shoes amid the debris.

Another photo from the scene showed at least one person doing chest compressions on a shirtless man while several other people lay on the ground nearby.

The Xinhua news agency quoted a witness, Wu Tao, as saying some people had scrambled for coupons that looked like dollar bills bearing the name of a bar that were being thrown out of a third-floor window. It said the cause of the stampede was still under investigation.

Last week, the English-language Shanghai Daily reported that the annual New Year’s Eve countdown on the Bund that normally attracts about 300,000 people had been cancelled, apparently because of crowd control issues.