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China New Year stampede kills 35 in Shanghai

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Angry family members clash with security personnel in a hospital where some victims of a stampede were sent, in Shanghai on January 1, 2015/AFP

Angry family members clash with security personnel in a hospital where some victims of a stampede were sent, in Shanghai on January 1, 2015/AFP

SHANGHAI, China, Jan 1 – A New Year’s stampede on Shanghai’s historic waterfront killed at least 35 revellers, most of them women, and injured dozens more, despite efforts by authorities in China’s commercial hub to mitigate the risk of overcrowding.

While some witnesses said revellers had scrambled for fake money thrown from a building, others downplayed the likelihood that this was to blame.

The disaster happened shortly before midnight late on Wednesday as people packed the Bund area to usher in 2015, according to a city government statement.

A photo on the Shanghai Daily newspaper’s website showed what appeared to be dead and injured people lying on the ground with crowds still in the background. State TV footage showed abandoned footwear littering the area and a line of police vans with flashing lights.

City officials said 35 people had been killed and 48 injured, 14 of them seriously.

The official news agency Xinhua said 25 women and 10 men were among the dead, with the ages of the first 10 identified fatalities ranging from 16 to 36.

American Andrew Shainker, an English teacher, watched from a rooftop terrace across the road as the disaster unfolded on a wide stairway leading up to a riverfront promenade.

“I witnessed lifeless bodies being carried out of a crowd one by one and dumped on the street,” he posted on Chinese messaging network Wechat.

“You could hear screams of panic. What I thought was the best view on the Bund ended up being a front row seat to an international tragedy.”

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Most of the victims appeared to be Chinese, he said.

“I felt I was suffocating,” wrote one poster on Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter. “Some people with us will not come back.”

The Bund, renowned for its pre-Chinese revolution architecture, is the former financial district of the country’s commercial hub and now a popular tourist destination, packed with high-end restaurants and expensive boutiques.

By dawn there was little evidence of the disaster beyond a lone police van and rubbish discarded by celebrants. That is typical in China for major incident scenes, which authorities are quick to clear.

Mourners laid flowers nearby.

More than 20 police vehicles were outside the Shanghai Number One People’s Hospital, one of at least three facilities where the injured were taken, and officers prevented people from entering.

The mother of an injured 12-year-old boy sat in a chair, crying, surrounded by relatives.

“We don’t know what is happening but we can’t get in to see him,” said her older brother, declining to be named.

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