Beijing: Shanghai police claim they expected a smaller crowd at a New Year’s Eve celebration where 36 people died in a stampede, and had deployed fewer police officers than at other celebration venues, media reported Friday.
The government-run Shanghai Daily reported that police did not impose some of the measures they had prepared because they thought there would be fewer people than actually showed up.
In addition to the 36 dead, including a child of 12 years and with most of the victims in their 20s, 47 other people were injured, 13 of whom are in a critical condition.
It was one of the deadliest stampedes in the last decade in China and occurred at the celebration in Chen Yi Square in the historic heart of Shanghai located near the famed Bund waterfront.
The celebration was planned initially in an open area, but then changed to a closed location with paid access to avoid crowds like those of previous years when some 300,000 people showed up.
Having prepared for a lower profile party than those of previous years, the police did not send the 700 additional officers as initially planned, nor did they close nearby Metro stations, said Cai Lixin, a senior official of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau.
However, when they received information about a greater number of people attending the event, the police reinforced their deployment, Cai added.
According to accounts by survivors reported by the Chinese press, the stampede originated on the stairs of a raised platform next to the Chen Yi Square where a lot of people had gathered.
Some witnesses testified that the stampede occurred when dollar-bill like coupons were thrown from surrounding buildings, while the Shanghai police questioned these claims and said that the investigation remains open.