Four minutes after police in Shanghai said the Bund area was full and advised locals to go elsewhere for their New Year’s celebration, a stampede erupted late Wednesday in the crowd that left 36 people dead and 47 injured, the city’s information office said.
The stampede began about 11:35 p.m. near Chenyi Square in the Bund, an area popular with both residents and tourists for its bars, restaurants and beautiful views of the Yangtze River. The cause of the incident was under investigation. By Thursday morning, 46 people remained hospitalized, and 33 victims who died had been indentified.
Just before the stampede began, the Shanghai police department posted a picture on its official social media account on Weibo.com showing the Bund area filled with people coming to celebrate the New Year.
“Although there were many people, everything was still in order,” the police said in the post along with the picture. “We hope people at the scene can cooperate with police officers and celebrate the New Year safely.”
At the end of the post, the police issued this warning: “The Bund area is almost full, we suggest people choose another place to celebrate the New Year.”
Wu Tao from Anhui province was among the injured being treated at Shanghai’s No. 1 People’s Hospital, the local Eastday Newspaper reported. Wu told the paper that the stampede occurred on the slope connecting Chenyi Square with a special platform built for tourists to view the scenery on the Bund, which a century ago was the heart of the American and European business community in Shanghai.
Wu told the paper someone began to drop coupons that looks like $100 bills from a building nearby, causing the crowd to scramble. It wasn’t clear if that triggered the stampede.
Pictures circulated on Weibo.com showed the coupons, resembling the color and design of $100 bills, scattered on the ground at the scene of the accident, with the words “M18” and “New Year 2015” on them. M18 is the name of a nightclub located on the fourth floor of the Bund 18 building, next to the scene of the incident.
A witness posted an account on Weibo, calling it “probably the most tragic but also luckiest New Year’s celebration I’ve been part of.”
“When I was going up on the stairs, a serious stampede happened and I was lucky to have escaped from the crowd pounding down, because I was standing on the side,” the witness, Xiao Ji, wrote Thursday.
“All of a sudden, I heard people screaming and shouting,” Xiao wrote. “After pulling out two people from the crowd, I couldn’t help anyone else out. I could only give them more courage by holding their hands and wait for the police to come and help.”
In southern China on Wednesday, a gas explosion at an auto parts factory killed 17 people and injured 33, the official New China News Agency reported.
According to a statement from the local government, the explosion occurred about 9:30 a.m. at Fuwa Engineering Machinery Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in the Shunde district of the industrial city of Foshan in Guangdong province.
Tommy Yang in The Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.