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Shanghai stampede: Questions over govt, police role

Questions were raised Friday about the efficiency of the local government and police as Chinese citizens mourned the 36 people crushed to death in the New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai, the country’s financial hub.

world Updated: Jan 02, 2015 21:52 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Questions were raised Friday about the efficiency of the local government and police as Chinese citizens mourned the 36 people crushed to death in the New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai, the country’s financial hub.

Besides the 36 killed, many of them young women, at least 47 were injured in the stampede that triggered panic and chaos in Shanghai’s famous river-front, called the Bund, around midnight Wednesday.

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Rescuers help victims of a stampede on Shanghai's historic riverfront. (AFP Photo)

Some comments on China’s popular social media platform called Weibo – which has millions of users – brought in an Indian comparison, linking it to religious beliefs.

One Weibo user said (translated from Chinese) stampedes happen in India because “people have their belief so they want to be closer to their God. So sometimes that they don’t care about other people, even their own lives.”

Authorities said Friday that more than 300,000 people had gathered along the river-front that offers a gleaming view of skyscrapers on the other side of the river.

“The disaster, which happened in China's financial hub of Shanghai, served as a wake-up call that the world's second-largest economy is still a developing country which has fragile social management,” the official news agency Xinhua was quoted by Reuters as saying in an English-language commentary.

“It was a lack of vigilance from the government, a sloppiness,” the news agency wrote, adding that the stampede happened not far from a much trumpeted new free trade zone described as the “pride of the country”.

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Residents light candles and plac flowers at the site of a deadly stampede to commemorate the victims. (AP Photo)

The critical Xinhua commentary appeared to have been removed from the news agency’s website later during the day.

According to state media, officials were caught off guard in 2013 when nearly 300,000 people turned up for the New Year countdown at the Bund.

Police said the number of people gathered along the Bund by 8:30pm Wednesday had exceeded last year’s figure.

“We started to add manpower since 7pm due to the increase of revelers and added another hundreds of persons after the accident,” Cai Lixin, an official with Huangpu branch of the city’s Public Security Bureau, was quoted by the state media as saying.