People unable to contact friends and relatives streamed into Shanghai’s hospitals yesterday, anxious for information after a stampede during New Year’s celebrations in the city’s historic waterfront area killed 36 people in the worst disaster to hit one of China’s showcase cities in recent years.
The Shanghai government said 47 others received hospital treatment, including 13 who were seriously injured, after the chaos about a half an hour before midnight. Seven of the injured people had left hospitals by yesterday afternoon.
The Shanghai government information office said one Taiwanese was among the dead, and two Taiwanese and one Malaysian were among the injured.
The three Taiwanese work for the same accounting firm and were visiting China, Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation said.
One sustained minor injuries, while the other was still hospitalized for further observation, foundation spokesperson Maa Shaw-chang (馬紹章) said.
The foundation contacted China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Shanghai City Government’s Taiwan Affairs Office yesterday morning when it learned of the incident, Maa said.
Taiwan hopes the Shanghai government will look into the situation and offer aid as soon as possible if it receives any more reports of Taiwanese being injured, Maa said.
The deaths and injuries occurred at Chen Yi Square in Shanghai’s popular riverfront Bund area, an avenue lined with art deco buildings from the 1920s and 1930s when the city was home to international banks and trading houses. The area is often jammed with people during major events.
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, and young women who looked at the photos broke into tears when they recognized someone.
A saleswoman in her 20s who declined to give her name said she had been celebrating with three friends.
“I heard people screaming, someone fell, people shouted: ‘Don’t rush,”’ she said. “There were so many people and I couldn’t stand properly.”
Xinhua news agency quoted a woman with the surname Yin who was caught with her 12-year-old son in the middle of crowds of people pushing to go up and down steps leading from the square.
“Then people started to fall down, row by row,” Yin said.
Shanghai No. 1 People’s Hospital vice president Xia Shujie 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.
CCTV America, the US version of state broadcaster China Central Television, posted a video of Shanghai streets after the stampede showing piles of discarded shoes amid the debris.
Yesterday morning, dozens of police officers were in the area and tourists continued to wander by the square, a small patch of grass dominated by a statue of Chen Yi, the city’s first communist mayor.
Steps lead down from the square to a road across from several buildings.
“We were down the stairs and wanted to move up and those who were upstairs wanted to move down, so we were pushed down by the people coming from upstairs,” an injured man told Shanghai TV.
“All those trying to move up fell down on the stairs,” the man said.
Xinhua quoted 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.
Additional reporting by staff writer, with CNA
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