Witnesses tell how Shanghai Bund chaos erupted within minutes
Crowd masses on a packed stairway leading to terrace viewing area, and within minutes pushing escalates into panicked terror, witnesses say
People caught up in the stampede in Shanghai on New Year's Eve said the chaos unfolded quickly, with screams ringing out in the darkness as pushing escalated and panicked revellers began climbing over others in an attempt to escape.
The crowd grew congested on a stairway leading to a terrace from about 11.30pm, they said. People along the Bund were surging towards the terrace hoping to get a better view and a bottleneck formed as some tried to go down the stairs while others were pushing their way up.
One witness told the South China Morning Post he was standing on the stairway with four friends, when he saw one onlooker fall.
"Many people wanted to leave the stairway, but the security had blocked the road. I then snatched a megaphone from a security guard and told people to leave, and two emergency lanes were cleared afterwards," he said. "It was a loss of order and no one knew what was happening at the time."
Thirty-six people died and 49 others were injured in the stampede, the city government said.
Another witness told the Post the scene was dark and all he could hear was people screaming when the chaos erupted.
"When I looked back at the scene after the accident and saw people's shoes and other belonging scattered around, I felt sad and terrified," he said.
Other witnesses said the stampede happened because people ignored police calls to avoid heading to the viewing terrace. "Police had blocked the road to the terrace, but many people ignored them," a witness told The Beijing News. "Police tried to maintain order and asked people to slow down, but they ignored them.
"And soon after the [new year] countdown, people started rushing back and forth, and no one was able to control the situation."
Another witness told Xinhua she was celebrating with six family members. Her son was injured and her brother's wife suffered a bone fracture. "When the chaos happened, I just held tightly to the two children standing in front of me. When I called to my son, he had already fallen down," she said. "When my son was rescued, there were two black marks on his neck and his nose was bleeding."
Another witness, Wu Tao, was watching the light display along the promenade. At about 11.50pm, people began to scramble for coupons that looked like US money thrown from a building opposite the stairs. That made the chaos worse, Wu said.
"There were large crowds of people around the area," Wu was quoted by Shanghai-based Eastday.com as saying. "And all of a sudden some people were screaming that dollar bills were being distributed, and they started scrambling. The chaos first happened among people around the building, but they started running around as the coupons were spreading, and the stampede happened."
Police last night dismissed speculation the coupons triggered the deadly stampede.
Cui Tingting, 27, said she picked up some of the coupons but soon realised they were not money and threw them away.
"It's too cruel. People in front of us had already fallen to the floor and others were stepping all over them," she said.
American Andrew Shainker, who teaches English in Shanghai, was on the terrace of a restaurant overlooking the area. "[It] looked from above as if people were getting crushed as more and more people came from all directions," he said. "We saw people on the opposite side of the street pushing - people trying to go up and people trying to go down. We heard screams of panic."
People rushed to pull others to safety and attempt emergency resuscitation. "I witnessed lifeless bodies being carried out of a crowd one by one and dumped on the street. Each body had around four people carrying it," he said.
Two ambulances arrived after about 30 minutes but paramedics were overwhelmed. "It was impossible for emergency services to get in there given the people and chaos," he said. "What I thought was the best view on the Bund ended up being a front-row seat to an international tragedy."
Alice Yan, Daniel Ren, Teddy Ng, Reuters, Agence France-Presse
MINUTES TO TRAGEDY
8pm People start to gather in the Bund area, China News Service reports, citing the Huangpu district police commander.
11.30pm A witness hears women and children scream as people are crushed together near Chen Yi Square, and unease starts to spread through the crowd, according to the Southern Metropolis News.
- Police spot unusual pedestrian movements near the square. They detect that "people have stopped moving" and dispatch 500 officers to the scene, China News Service reports, citing the Huangpu district police commander.
- The first police officers arrive on the scene in "five to eight minutes", Eastday.com quotes a police officer as saying.
11.34pm A witness sees several people fall on a staircase near the square. People nearby try to pull them up but fail as more pedestrians crowd the steps. The situation gets out of control and those on the ground are further pressed together, according to the Southern Metropolis News website, Nandu.com
11.35pm The stampede occurs, according to the official account.
11.40pm Several pedestrians near the stairs shout "Back! Back!", trying to stop more people flooding in, Nandu.com reports, citing a witness.
11.50pm A witness sees "fake money" that had been thrown from a building across the road, Eastday.com reports. The notes turn out to be bar coupons.
11.55pm The crowd starts to calm down. People help move the injured. Some pedestrians try to resuscitate the injured while others clear a way for ambulances, Sina.com reports.
12.31am The Shanghai Public Security Bureau's official microblog says police officers are evacuating pedestrians after some people fell in the Bund area.
3am Shanghai party chief Han Zheng visits the injured at the Shanghai No1 People's Hospital, China News Service reports.
4.01am Shanghai government's microblog announces that 35 people were killed and 42 injured in the stampede. Later updated to 36 dead and 49 hurt.