President Xi Jinping has demanded an investigation into a New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai that killed 36 people and injured 47.
The crush happened in Chenyi Square in the city’s historic Bund district, where thousands of people had gathered for the new year countdown, BBC News reported.
Investigations are likely to examine whether there were enough police on duty to manage the huge crowds.
New Year’s Day festivities in the city have been cancelled, local media said.
Xi told Shanghai officials to provide an explanation for Wednesday’s fatalities as soon as possible, state television reported.
Local officials around China were also told to ensure no repeat of the Shanghai incident could occur elsewhere, Reuters said.
The crush began at about 23:35 local time on a stairway leading to a viewing platform near the waterfront, as people tried to get up and down the steps, state broadcaster CCTV said.
A local resident, identified as Sarah, told AFP, “people were screaming … and people [started] jumping off the staircase to get clear”.
She said: “There was a quiet, and then people on the stairs fell in a wave.”
Gaby Gabriel, an American photographer living in Shanghai, told the BBC: “It was a tremendous amount of people moving in all different directions.
“It seemed some people were trying to move away from the river and some people were trying to go toward the river, and there was no order whatsoever, no guidance.”
Shanghai police denied social media reports that the stampede was triggered by people stopping to pick up fake money thrown from the balcony of a nightclub.
Police said video footage showed the fake notes had been thrown after the crush took place.
Shanghai’s city government said a person from Taiwan was among the dead, and there were two Taiwanese and one Malaysian among the injured.
Many of the dead are believed to be students, 25 of them women, state media reported.
A traditional New Year fireworks display on the Bund had already been cancelled because of official fears of overcrowding, the Shanghai Daily reported.
Police repeatedly intervened when TV cameramen tried to interview witnesses who had returned to the scene of the tragedy, the Financial Times reported.
At Shanghai No. 1 People’s Hospital, one of the main hospitals where victims of the stampede were taken, a large cohort of police blocked the entrance Thursday morning.
The tragedy was reminiscent of a stampede in 1993 that killed 21 New Year revellers and injured 63 in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district, where wet weather and hilly ground created dangerous conditions.
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